How Do You Answer Arminian Claims That Believers Can Lose Their Salvation?

Question:  There are Arminians who say to me that in the Bible we find proofs that a person who is saved can lose salvation.  For example in Luke 8,13 they say to me that there are people who believe only for a time: “for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away”. They say to me that these people believe and after a time leave the faith and lose that salvation. This is confirmed by 1 Timothy 4,1 where we read:  “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith”.  Since we can depart from the faith we can loose that salvation we previously have with that faith.

Another “proof” they point me to is 1 Samuel 10,6: they say that Saul received the Holy Spirit and was turned into another man, he was converted to God.  But despite being turned into another man by the Holy Spirit, towards the end of his life he disobeyed God and was no longer converted to God but had the ability to rebel against God.

They also teach that Calvinists are wrong when they teach we are surely saved only by election because the apostle Paul was not sure to be saved at all: in 1 Corinthians 15,2 Paul says:  “By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”  Here Paul was not saying we are certainly saved by election but that we are saved if we do something.  It is an illusion to believe we are saved because we must pay attention since our salvation is not sure:   “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10,12)

They say to me that  certainly we can lose our salvation since ” if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Hebrew 10:38.  If we are saved and always saved why we can draw back?

They believe we can return to sin after we are saved: For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. (2 Peter 2,20-21).

At the end the Arminians terribly distressed me with this final reasoning:  Paul had a collaborator named Demas (Colossians 4,14).  Paul said that his collaborators had their name written in the book of life, this means they are saved. (Philippians 4,3)  So Demas was saved with his name written in the book of life.  But Dema left Paul because He loved the world, so he was no more a believer. (2°Timothy 4,10)   This is proof that his name was blotted out from the book of life and he loose his salvation.

Answer:  First of all, let me present the case for eternal security and perseverance of the saints.  Biblical support is as follows:

John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (ESV)  Jesus says no one is able to “come” to him (his phrase, in this message, for believing in him) unless the Father draws this person.  The basic inability of humans to come to Jesus, to believe in him, is overcome by the Father’s drawing action.  But could it be that this drawing action can be resisted?  Apparently not.  Jesus says that the person so drawn to him will be raised up by him on the last day.

John 10:25–30.  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (ESV)
Jesus acknowledges that there are people who cannot believe because they are not among his sheep, that is, they have not been selected to believe and become his flock.  Those who have been selected for his flock hear his voice and respond to it by following him.  AND they will NEVER PERISH!  He gives them eternal life and no one (not even themselves, I would argue) can snatch them from his or his Father’s hand.  They are eternally secure.

Romans 8:28–39.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (ESV)Paul describes an unbreakable chain: whoever is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ is called, whoever is called is justified (declared righteous before God by the merit of Jesus’ righteousness and sacrifice), whoever is justified is (or we would say, will be) glorified (resurrected and eternally perfected).  If God is for the believer in this way, then nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  That is eternal security.

1 Corinthians 1:4–9I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)
For those Corinthians who were responsive to the testimony about Christ and enriched, therefore, in all speech gifts and knowledge gifts, Paul gives assurance that they will be sustained by Jesus Christ to the end and presented guiltless in the day of the Lord Jesus.  God’s faithfulness assures this.

Ephesians 1:13–14.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)
For those who have believed Paul gives the assurance that they were sealed with the Holy Spirit, i.e., marked as belonging to God.  And that Holy Spirit in our lives is the guarantee that we will acquire our inheritance from God.

Philippians 1:6.  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)

Paul sees the evidence of salvation in the lives of the Philippians, most notably in their financial support for him from the very beginning, so he is convinced that God has begun a good work in them, the work of salvation, and he knows that what God begins He finishes.

1 Thessalonians 5:23–24.  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (ESV)

God will surely sanctify the spirit, soul and body of the true believer.

Matthew 24:22–24.  And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (ESV)
Jesus is giving his disciples the signs of the end of the age.  He describes a time of great tribulation that will come with many false christs proclaiming themselves, and will sound very convincing, but it is not possible to lead the elect astray.

Romans 6:1–7.  What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. (ESV)
We who have died to sin with Jesus Christ cannot continue to live in sin.  So if we have been united with him in his death (saved) we will also be united with him in his resurrection.  There is no chance that we will pull away from him and lose our salvation.  We’ve been set free from the dominance of sin over our lives.

Romans 8:5–11.  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (ESV)
Those who live by the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit, and you are in the Spirit in this way if the Spirit dwells in you.  If the Spirit does not dwell within you then you do not belong to Christ.  But we know that the Spirit dwells within every true believer (see Ephesians 1:13,14 above, and 1 Corinthians 12:12,13).

1 Corinthians 6:9–11.  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom, but believers will not continue in unrighteousness.  Believers have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of Jesus and by the Spirit.  They will inherit the kingdom.  By implication, those who do continue in unrighteousness were not saved to begin with.

1 John 2:18–20.  Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. (ESV)

There were people in the church at Ephesus who embraced the false teaching John is writing about.  John says they would not have left the faith if they had been “of us,” that is, if they were true believers who have the anointing by the Holy One so that they have all knowledge and do not get swayed by false teaching.  True believers persevere in the faith.
Theological support is from two standpoints:
A. From the nature of salvation
1. We are not saved on the basis of works. How could we lose our salvation on that basis?
2. If we have been justified (declared righteous by God), not on the basis of works or personal righteousness, that judicial pronouncement made on the basis of Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account cannot be overturned by anything we do.
3. If we have to pay for any sin of ours, past, present, or future, we must pay with our lives eternally. Unless Christ’s death paid for every sin I ever committed or will commit, I can never be justified in His sight, but if all are paid for I can never be punished for anything I do wrong.(Romans 8:1-4)
4. If we were reconciled when we were enemies, why, once friends, would we ever be subject to God’s wrath again? (Romans 5:9-11)
B. From the standpoint of God’s election, how, if He chose us to be saved, not based on anything in ourselves, would He then unchoose us because of something in ourselves (a repudiation of faith)?
1. Romans 8:29; 9:22-24, What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— ; 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
2. Ephesians1:4-12; 2:4-10 (1:4,5, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ. –  2:4-10, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)
3. Philippians2:12,13
4. Hebrews12:7-11, God disciplines true believers resulting in sharing His holiness
5. 2 Peter 1:5-11, walking in righteousness confirms your calling and election
Now let me respond to the passages offered by your Arminian friends.
Luke 8:13.  And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. (ESV)
There is genuine belief and there is temporary belief. Of Simon the sorcerer/magician in Acts 8:13 it is said, “Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip“. But Peter tells him, after he offers to pay Peter to have the ability to confer the Holy Spirit upon people, “I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”  In other words, Simon is not saved.  Jesus is speaking here about that temporary kind of faith that does not save anyone.  True believers persevere through times of testing.
1 Timothy 4:1.  Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (ESV)
Those who depart from the faith, that is, from the teaching which we are to believe, not from faith itself, were not true believers to begin with, like those John describes in 1 John 2, who went out from the church with a false teaching about Jesus, and whom John says were not actually “of” us.
1 Samuel 10:10–11.  When they came to Gibeah, behold, a group of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God rushed upon him, and he prophesied among them. And when all who knew him previously saw how he prophesied with the prophets, the people said to one another, “What has come over the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”   1 Samuel 16:14.  Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a harmful spirit from the LORD tormented him.(ESV)
The giving of the Holy Spirit to anointed kings in Israel was not the giving of the Spirit for salvation but for carrying out their responsibilities as king.  The removing of His Spirit was the removing of the man as king.  Whether Saul was saved or not is not a matter of whether he had the Spirit to lead as king, but whether he had truly believed in Yahweh.  If giving of the Spirit to Saul was for salvation then he wasn’t saved until he met these prophets, but that is patently not what meeting the prophets is all about.
1 Corinthians 15:1–2.  Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. (ESV)
True believers hold fast the word of the gospel to the end.  They persevere in the faith, unlike those who left the church in Ephesus about whom John the apostle said, “they were not of us” (1 John 2:18-20).  Paul’s remark about the Corinthians believing in vain is related to their rejection of bodily resurrection, which, if true, would mean we are not any of us saved at all (15:12-19).
Hebrews 10:35–39.  Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while,
  and the coming one will come and will not delay;
 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
  and if he shrinks back,
 my soul has no pleasure in him.” 
 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. (ESV)
The writer to the Hebrews is wrestling with some Jewish believers who are being tempted to give up Christianity and returning to Judaism.  He tells them in chapter 6 (see my article on it) that someone who does that cannot be renewed to repentance.  In essence, they have committed the unpardonable sin.  But the writer says there the same thing he says here, that “we are convinced of better things concerning you, things pertaining to salvation” (6:9).  “We,” the author says here of himself and his readers, “are not of those (unbelievers) who shrink back (whose faith is only temporary, not saving) and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls,” that is, those who persevere in faith, as true believers do.
2 Peter 2:1–3, 20-22.  But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.” (ESV)
This might be the most difficult passage to explain.  It is clear that these false teachers are not now saved.  But were they saved before this.  They are denying the Master who bought them.  Did He actually buy them, redeem them, or is this speaking from the perspective of what they claimed.  They escaped from the defilements of the world, like those who had no root that Jesus mentioned (Luke 8).  But was this genuine salvation or a temporary turning from unrighteousness that they could not maintain?  They know the way of righteousness but do not actually believe it, teaching instead a false doctrine so they can engage in unrighteousness.  They are dogs returning to their vomit.  They never became sheep.  I suggest that my interpretation that they were never saved is preferable to overturning all the clear passages I shared above that clearly teach eternal security and perseverance of the saints.
Colossians 4:14.  Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. (ESV)  2 Timothy 4:9–11.  Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (ESV)
Paul does not say that Demas has his name written in the book of life.  But even if he had, Paul is not saying that Demas has lost his salvation.  He is saying that Demas deserted him.  John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, also at one time deserted Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13) and Paul refused to take him on the next journey because of this.  But now Mark is serving with Paul and Paul asks him to come join him in Rome, where Paul is in prison.  As far as we know, Paul still considers Demas a saved person, just not a faithful co-worker.
So, when you look at all the Scriptures and are careful in your analysis of them, you see that indeed there is a promise of eternal security for all who truly believe.  True believers also persevere in their faith and in godliness.  They may have lapses, but they ultimately persevere.
Jesus said, in his sermon on the mount:  Matthew 7:21–23.  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (ESV).  It is not the case that they knew him and he knew them and that therefore they were saved, and that somehow they turned from the truth, though they still claimed to be living it, and lost their salvation.  Jesus says, “I never knew you.”  They were never saved to begin with.

Here are some articles I have written on this

Why don’t we obey all the rules of the Old Testament?

Question: I got asked a question from a coworker, and had no idea how to answer it. Why don’t Christian’s follow all the rules in the old testament? There were rules on how to treat slaves. Taking a wife from a captured nation. Stoning. Not allowed to eat pork, or bottom dwellers. So because of Jesus Christ death, none of those rules are relevant today? My co-worker said ” wouldn’t that make God fallible, or the person who wrote the old testament.” Which would make the Bible fallible.

Answer:  I don’t know if you are a parent, but as parents raising kids we impose rules that change over time.  We haven’t changed as parents, we aren’t being fallible, but are keeping to our main purpose of raising independent adults.  We have made changes as needed to accommodate that singular purpose.  Here are some examples:

When our child is just a toddler…

When our child is a pre-teen… When our child is an adult…
Don’t touch the blu-ray machine Show me how to use the blu-ray They have their own blu-ray
Love your brother and sister Love your brother and sister Love your brother and sister
Hold my hand when you cross the street Hold your brother’s hand when we cross the street Hold my hand when we cross the street
Take a nap You can date when you’re 16

Give me grandkids

You can see that some rules remain the same, some new ones are added, and others change or go away as the child develops into adulthood.  Paul tells us that the Law served as “our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:24-26).  The Law of Moses was there only for the time of the world’s development up until Christ’s coming.

And remember, the Law was for a particular nation, Israel, and the people of God now includes Jews and Gentiles, not one nation but many nations.  Many of the laws for Israel were nationally oriented (laws of punishment for certain crimes, national observances of religious festivals, treatment of slaves, etc.).  But believers live under the laws of many different nations around the world.  God was using also using Israel as a witness to the world of their unique relationship to God, and so some of the laws were designed to set Israel apart from other nations (circumcision required for all males, clean and unclean foods designated, forms of dress, etc.).  Believers today cannot be set aside in the same way.  We give witness to our relationship to God through our moral character, especially our love.

So at this time in our “development” as a race we are under a new law, the law of Christ (1 Corinthians 9:21).  It contains many of the same moral requirements as the Law of Moses (at least nine of the ten commandments, the Sabbath law being altered some), but because of what Christ has accomplished by his sacrifice, all of the sacrificial system of the Law of Moses is no longer pertinent.  Christ’s sacrifice has made all the previous sacrificing obsolete.  He is the fulfillment of all those sacrifices.  And the laws about diet and slavery and so on are also obsolete.

So now we might diagram things this way:

The nation Israel

The Church

The Kingdom

Law of Moses

Law of Christ (1 Cor 9)

Law of the kingdom?

Clean/unclean foods

All foods clean

All foods clean

Scripture to guide

Scripture to guide

No Scripture needed

Love your neighbor

Love your neighbor

Love your neighbor

Sabbath on Saturday

Sabbath on any day (Ro 14)

Perpetual Sabbath?

There will yet be another development in the way we are governed in the kingdom, when Jesus returns.

See what your co-worker thinks of this.  Ask him if he has been a fallible parent if he has changed any of his rules for his kids.

What Is the Possible Purpose for Stillborn Children or Those Who Live Only a Short Time?

Question:  Since many children die as soon as they are born, what’s the purpose of a newborn baby who dies after some minutes? Why does God give or insert a soul to children who die as soon as they leave the womb?

Answer:  We might ask a similar question about people who never develop mentally and emotionally enough to come to know God (at least, we can’t tell that they have).  I think the answer lies in the fact that God has a purpose for their lives and quite likely they are received into His care in heaven upon death, so their eternal purpose is clear, but their short or attenuated lives serve a purpose in how we receive them or experience their brief time with us or how we care for them as those who never fully develop.  They have a purpose in our lives that is crucial for our development.

We learn something about unconditional love and about grieving their loss that is important to our growth as those God has ordained to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).  Of the man born blind mentioned in John 9, Jesus said that his blindness was for the glory of God.  Yes it was painful for him and for his parents and others, but his healing resulted in God receiving glory.  In the same way, the stillborn or short lived newborn, brings glory to God as the parents and family continue to trust or learn to trust God and give testimony to His goodness despite this tragedy.  This in turn speaks to those outside the family who may need to see this hope that exists despite what seems a hopeless situation.
It is when people see that hope does not reside in our circumstances but in our God that they are able to see that their own hope must rest in God and they may then be on the way to believing in Him for salvation.  Peter said to always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15) and that is most likely to be required of you when you face tragedy with hope in Him.  Unbelievers will want to know how that is possible and you will have the answer.

Will People Have as an Excuse Before God at the Judgment That He Did Not Open Their Minds to Their Sins?

Question:  If a man makes a mistake and commits a sin but he believes in his heart that it is not a sin and it is the will of God, then God will punish him for this error despite the fact that this man believes in his conscience that it is the will of God?  For example, Islam’s kamikazes who cause terror and death believing it is the will of God.  Why does God not clearly show the truth to people but lets them make terrible errors in His name?  I can imagine a future dialog on judgment day where a person blames God for not opening his mind to the truth. Or would God forgive him for at least seeking to honor Him even though he did it improperly?

Answer:  If I believe in my conscience that taking your life to further mine is correct, should I be given credit for killing you conscientiously?  I ask it that way because I believe we are dealing with the question of absolutes here, moral absolutes and doctrinal absolutes.

Suppose I know someone you know, let’s call him Brett, and you see Brett as a loving family man and trusted worker, but I see him as a terrorist who is only putting on a front.  Perhaps I carry out a terrorist act in Brett’s name with him as my mentor and example.  In my conscience I believe it is proper to kill innocent people for the sake of the cause we, Brett and I, espouse.  But is it ever right to kill innocent people to bolster one’s cause?  Why do some people believe it is?  Because Brett told them too?  But if you know that Brett is not a terrorist and does not approve of terrorism, should you still honor me for killing in his name because I so firmly believed he was a terrorist?  If you know Brett is a terrorist, does that cause you to honor me for doing terrorism in his name?

In Romans 1:18-26 Paul describes how everyone knows the truth about who God is because He has made it plain to everyone.  No one on earth has an excuse to say they didn’t know about God.  Paul similarly describes the role of conscience in Romans 2 and how it guides us in our decision making.  We can violate our conscience and deny God and His moral law and even find ourselves doing it in God’s name.

Paul says that we hold down the truth or suppress the truth about God and His moral law.  We do this because we don’t want to have to submit to a God whom we cannot control.  We redefine God in a way that makes Him acceptable to us.  All the religions of the world are a defining of God in a way that keeps Him manageable.  All the religions of the world, except Christianity, hold, for example, that the way to have a right relationship to God is by obeying Him and that we have the ability to do that.  Christianity, on the other hand, denies that we have the ability to obey God and so holds that a right relationship with God can only come as a gift from Him.  All the religions of the world, except Christianity, believe that God will forgive us if we are trying hard to obey Him.  Christianity, on the other hand, acknowledges that we all justly deserve eternal separation from God and He cannot forgive us unless the demands of justice are met, and He has indeed met them for us by dying in our place.  Christianity alone requires a sacrifice because Christianity alone understands how truly alienated and rebellious we are.

So we are truly culpable or blameworthy for claiming wrong things about God.  We do know better deep down but don’t want to acknowledge it.  God will not honor the terrorist for thinking he was doing God’s will.  The terrorist is in rebellion against the true God and will not be pardoned for wicked deeds done in God’s name.  He will have no excuse before the throne of judgment.

There may be areas of moral decision that are not so clear as the issue of murdering innocents.  In these areas there is room for honest differences between people and God will certainly honor the intent of the heart.  But He will not justify killing in His name for the sake of striking fear in people’s hearts to get one’s political or religious view more influence.  That young man or woman who believes he or she is getting into heaven because they blew themselves up in Allah’s name is going to be sadly disappointed.  They should have known better.  Deep down, they did know better.  They had to stifle their conscience with the false teaching of those who recruited them.

If God Made Me Defective, Why Does He Blame Me?

Question:  If my car has a defect or lacks some parts isn’t that the manufacturer’s fault and not mine. Since Adam sinned for lack of wisdom wasn’t God the responsible party since He had not given to Adam the wisdom needed to avoid sin?

Why did He make a car that doesn’t work and then became angry with His own imperfect car? If God wants a perfect creation who does not sin, why doesn’t He create it perfect? If God doesn’t make the creature perfect, why does He blame the creature for the creature’s failure?

Answer:  Paul makes a very interesting statement in 1 Timothy 2:14, “Adam was not deceived.”

Let’s think about what happened in the garden.  The tempter tells Eve that she will not die if she eats from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but that God wants to keep her from it because if she eats from it she will become like God, able to determine good and evil for herself.  She won’t have to be under God’s control.  She’ll be in control.  The text says she ate and gave to Adam “who was with her” and he ate.

This not eating from this particular tree was the only prohibition God gave Adam and Eve.  He told them that in the day they ate of it they would die.  Eve was deceived by the serpent’s arguments, but, according to Paul, Adam was not.  So why did Adam eat what was forbidden?  He wanted independence from God.  He wanted to be able to make the rules.  He didn’t want to have to trust God to take care of him, he wanted to trust himself.

Was this a defect in the way God made him?  I don’t believe so.  How does God give someone a will, the ability to make choices, if He forbids or doesn’t make him able to make any choice?  If Adam can’t choose to rebel, as Satan did, then Adam doesn’t really have the ability to choose.  So God made the car able to do whatever a car should do, not defective in any way.  If the car had lacked a function of cars that cars should have, then it would not have been a true car.  If Adam lacked the ability to choose wrong, he would not be a human made in God’s image.  He would be something else, more along the lines of the animals that populated the earth.

But given that Adam was a responsible being with a will to make choices of any kind, his choice to reject God’s rule over him was reprehensible.  God could not simply say, “Oh, well, no big deal.”  As with Satan, there had to be justice.  Adam knew how good God had been to him and to Eve.  He saw all that God had provided for him in abundance.  He saw how God made him a co-ruler by giving him dominion over the earth, naming animals, working the garden.  God gave the test of the tree because He needed to see if Adam would freely choose to love and trust Him.  All the evidence Adam had said he could trust and love God.

But Adam wanted to be God.  Of course, choosing what is right and wrong on your own doesn’t confer deity or godhead on you.  Satan lied about that.  Adam found that out immediately.  He felt shame at his own decision and at his nakedness.  He only possessed divine traits in a non-infinite way, in a finite way, and could not really control life as he thought he could.  But despite all the evidence we have that this is true, that we don’t really have the power to control life, we persist in trying to.

Adam’s heart is our heart.  We fear entrusting our lives to God, worrying that we are doomed in some way if we do.  In our hearts we know that is the expectation (Romans 1:18-26) but we prefer to keep things in our own tight little hands.  We think we can do a better job ourselves of running our own lives.  All the evidence is against that conclusion.

How Can I Be Happy in Heaven Knowing My Loved Ones Are in Hell?

Question: If i go to heaven but my mother, my father, my wife, my brother and my friends instead go to hell, how can I be happy missing them in eternity and knowing they are tortured forever? How can heaven be a happy place with the sadness of missing the people I love so much?

Answer:  That is undoubtedly one of the hardest matters for us to understand.  I think the problem is we don’t even now understand how awful our hearts are, or how much justice demands for our rebelliousness.  We think we’re fairly good people, not seeing how deserving of punishment we are, how utterly self-focused we are and in need of a rescue.  And we do not see how fairly God has given every person a chance to respond to the truth or how foolishly and ungratefully many of us have rejected the truth (Romans 1:18-26).

I can only assume that in heaven I will be able to see what God sees so clearly and I will see the justice of what he has determined as the consequences of sin.  This is not to say that I will have no sadness over those I love not being with me.  As Paul says, “I shall know fully even as I have been fully known,” and “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:12,13).  Paul is talking about the coming of the complete, mature or perfect kingdom of God which, when it comes, renders certain spiritual gifts or abilities unnecessary (supernatural knowledge, tongues and prophecy) but not rendering love unnecessary.  Love will always abide as the greatest virtue in the kingdom.  And if that is the case how could love not feel pain for lost loved ones?

But this will not be crippling pain or pain taken out of context from justice.  In Revelation 5 we see the apostle John in heaven examining the scroll sealed with seven seals and no one is found at first who is worthy to open the scroll.  We know from the rest of this prophecy (Revelation 6) that the scroll contains the terrifying judgments poured out on the earth in preparation for the coming Christ and his kingdom (sword, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc.).  But seeing this from heaven’s perspective, John does not rejoice that no one can open the scroll and unleash this judgment.  He weeps that no one is found who is worthy to open it.  Seeing things from heaven’s perspective, John longs for the outpouring of this terrible suffering, not because his love for people is blunted but because his sense of justice is heightened.

Our sense of love and justice and truth and holiness and wisdom will be heightened in heaven and we will never feel more like God feels than then.  He tells us,

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel? (Ezekiel 33:11)

Adrian Perry recognized the suspect seen in surveillance video broadcast on the local Memphis news channel, WHBQ.  It was her 20-year-old son, Derriontay, and he appeared to be trying to rob a couple while armed with a handgun. She didn’t think twice about what she should do. She picked up the the phone, called police, and turned in her own son. He was arrested without incident. “I love him,” she told WHBQ-TV. “This is what you call tough love, something a lot of parents need to start doing.”

Love doesn’t contradict justice.  The psalmist asks for God to put away His indignation toward Israel and revive her again, but recognizes that though He speaks peace to them they must not turn back to folly (Psalm 85).  When he sees God’s answer he says, “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other” (verse 10).  Heaven will be the perfect union of love and faithfulness, of peace and righteousness, mercy and justice.  They will be intimate partners in our souls.  We will grieve and rejoice at the same time.

Why has God allowed us to discover vaccines and antibiotics if He wanted to use disease to punish us?

Question:  Why God has allowed the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics to cure illness? If diseases are punishment from God then if we cure them we go against the will of God who wants to punish us. If vaccines and antibiotics are discovered because God wants to bless us why did God contradict Himself by sending diseases and then sending the cures of the same diseases he has sent? And if vaccines and antibiotics are a blessing from God why has God delivered these blessing after millions of people are already dead?

Answer:  I am reading a science fiction book called The Final Enemy by Dan Petrosini.  The plot is that a meteor falls to earth in the U.S. and it is discovered that wherever the meteorite goes natural deaths stop occurring.  After much testing the government sends the meteorite on a tour of the United States and then eventually all countries that sign a treaty with the United States and natural deaths basically cease around the world.  But with that comes other problems.  Overpopulation is the main problem, it seems, causing a major food shortage that threatens the entire world.  But the other problem is the ceasing of religious observance.  People don’t need God anymore, or so they think.

In Genesis 3, after Adam and Eve sin, God imposes what I’ll call “futilities” upon mankind.  In birth the woman’s pain will be greatly increased.  What should be an unadulterated experience of joy and meaning will be fraught with pain and suffering.  For the man, the work he does and must do to grow food will be met with plants or weeds that will threaten to choke out what it is edible and make his work frustrating.
God is not telling Adam and Eve or us that we shouldn’t seek to deal with the pain of childbirth or just let the weeds grow.  On the contrary, we will need to fight against these futilities but there will be that futile or useless aspect to them because we will never be able to completely eliminate them.  This level of frustration, however, is essential to our well-being.  God prohibits Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of life and living forever.  Paul says (Romans 8:18-21) that God purposely subjected the world to futility in hope of its future redemption.
Mankind’s greatest temptation is to seek life and peace and joy apart from God and in what He created for us, the world.  And without a doubt there is much the world offers that seems to bid us find our life/joy/peace in it (beauty, relationships, accomplishments) except that this frustrating aspect to life, the futility of it, keeps us from fully finding life there.  And this is a blessing, because were the world to work the way God made it to work originally, if we didn’t die (the ultimate futility) and if our efforts were always rewarded with success and our relationships work out the way we wanted, etc., we would be tempted to think that we were fine without God.  But we are not fine without Him.  We desperately need Him.  Futility built into the system helps us see that.
So God’s purpose in bringing illness and death and frustration and weeds and pain, is not entirely a punishment, as you characterized it, but a necessary consequence of trying to find life apart from Him, as Adam and Eve did and as every subsequent generation has.  These frustrating aspects to life are actually a mercy, helping us move toward Him and find the true source of our life/joy/peace.
He has also made us in His image and that makes us creators and innovators and doers and workers.  We are made to overcome problems and so we have developed ways to kill weeds and minimize pain and overcome illnesses, and yet each of these has also brought with them frustrating problems.  Weed killers poison our foods, pain relievers can become addictive or affect the child in the womb, and antibiotics can serve to strengthen the very bacteria they were meant to destroy resulting in super bugs that are not responsive to antibiotics.  We are not to quit seeking solutions, but we are reminded again and again that the ultimate solution is not in our intellect or abilities but in God and a relationship to Him.

Can Animals Have Compassion?

Question:  Why does the Bible give so little information about the differences between human and animals. Do animals run on instinct or do they have souls. For an animal, the instinct for self preservation has nothing to do with saving another species, sometime putting its own life at risk. Is love an instinct? There are a countless numbers of stories, but the last one I heard was of a whale saving a diver from a shark. Is that not compassion? I’m confused and torn.

Answer:  I suppose the simplest answer is that the Bible was not written to give us knowledge about everything having to do with our existence, but rather about our relationship with God.

It does mention that animals have spirits (Ecclesiastes 3:21–22, Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth? So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot. Who can bring him to see what will be after him?).  It reports an incident with Balaam in which his donkey talks to him after being enabled by God to communicate that way to his master (Numbers 22:22-30).

I believe that God gave us the responsibility of “subduing the earth” (Genesis 1:28) and part of that responsibility includes learning what we can about our fellow inhabitants.  Adam seemed to have studied the animals he saw in the garden in order to give them names (Genesis 2:18-20).  You have been learning about animals and their sometimes sacrificial acts on behalf of humans.  That may be an indication that animals can have something more than instinct at work in them.  We’re told in Genesis 3 that the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field.  So perhaps certain animals have abilities that others do not.  Adam and Eve didn’t seem too taken aback by the serpent speaking to them.

What Does Jesus Mean By Hating Father and Mother?

Question:  Luke 18:26 ….please explain what Jesus said about if we do not hate our mothers, fathers etc. This saying from the Jesus I do not understand.

Answer:  The passage you mention is Luke 18:29–30, And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (ESV).  In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

Jesus did not hate his mother but provided for her at his death by committing her to John’s care.  Jesus’ is talking here about our priorities.  Our first priority as Jesus’ disciples must be to follow and love him above all else.  He could not say this if he were not God.  Jesus is calling us to love God above all others because only then will we be able to love our loved ones in the truest way.  So Jesus is speaking in heightened terms here to make the point.  It is intended to shock us into thinking deeply about our most prior commitments.  But he also promises that such commitments will yield reward in the kingdom.

What Does It Mean That a Husband’s Prayers Will Be Hindered?

Question:  Please explain what the bible says about husbands prayers being hindered.

Answer:  The passage in question is 1 Peter 3:7, Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (ESV)

There are many things that can hinder the prayers of both men and women. James talks about our prayers being hindered by wanting what we ask for to “spend it on our passions” (James 4:3).  Sometimes our prayers are hindered by our lack of faith (James 1:5-8) and other times because we are actually using God to get what we want without really seeing Him as the true and only God and Sovereign (Ezekiel 14:1-8).  And sometimes our prayers are hindered because we are dishonoring what God honors.
That is the case when husbands mistreat their wives, when they fail to see their wives as fellow heirs of eternal life and treat them disrespectfully.  This, Peter says, will definitely put a barrier between them and God.  They are treating someone He values and honors in a dishonorable way, and He will discipline them for that.

 

Of course, if a wife treats her husband in a dishonorable way her prayers would also be hindered.  Peter is only focusing on the husband in this way, however, in this letter.