Islam: Perception and Truth

Perhaps in no other time in our history have Americans been more taken by surprise, more shocked, more devastated than on Black Tuesday, September 11, 2001. 

Almost immediately after the first shock waves hit us over our television screens the media folks, the politicians, and certain religious leaders began telling us that it was not the religion of Islam that brought about this devastation, but that it was the extremists who were using religion as a cloak for their fanatical terrorist activities. 

We have been fully informed that Islam is a religion of peace, not of war; and that Muslims are peace-loving people. Therefore, we should not blame the religion of Islam for the atrocities. We've been told that the horrendous acts of war perpetrated against our country on that day were really the acts of individuals who are evil and fanatical.

Separating Truth from Error

There is some truth in what we've been told, as well as some major misinformation. To be sure, it is true that many Muslims are peace-loving and were hurt and shocked by their fellow Muslims involved in the events of September 11th. It is especially true that a number of Muslims have come to America to escape the rigidness of life in their homelands which are controlled by Islamic teachings and traditions. 

As there are fundamentalists, moderates and liberals in the Jewish and Christian faiths, so there are in the religion of Islam. No doubt many who have settled here in our country could be classified as those Muslims who are more moderate or liberal in their views of their religious teachings. Such people love the freedoms they enjoy here and should not be singled out for any kind of retributive actions from fellow Americans who are not Muslims. But we might well ask why one would remain loyal to a religion founded upon and perpetrated by violence. Throughout its history, beginning with Muhammad, Islam has spread almost totally through the use of the sword.

Therefore, the Islamic religion, by definition and as observed throughout its history, is not a peace-loving religion, but a religion of war. In our pluralistic society we are afraid to speak what is clearly true, especially when it involves any religion other than Judaism or Christianity.

What is Taught in the Qur'an?

The Qur'an is the Muslim's most sacred and authoritative scripture. As Christians go to the Bible to find direction for life, Muslims seek out the teachings of the Qur'an to understand their faith and to gain guidance for life.

The divisions in the Qur'an are called surahs, similar to the books in our Bibles. They are the 114 working units of the Qur'an. In each surah there are what we would call verses. The Qur'an touches upon many aspects of life, and over 100 times it supports the use of violence and murder to advance the spread of Islam. I will share just a few of these verses with you:

Only, the recompense of those who war against God [Allah] and his Apostle [Muhammad], and go about to commit disorders on the earth, shall be that they shall be slain or crucified, or have their alternate hands and feet cut off, or be banished from the land: This their disgrace in the world, and in the next a great torment shall be theirs.
— Surah 5:38
O Believers! Take not the Jews or Christians as friends. They are but one another’s friends. If any one of you taketh them for his friends, he surely is one of them. God will not guide evil doers.
— Surah 5:56
No prophet hath been enabled to take captives until he had made great slaughter in the earth. Ye desire the passing fruitions of this world, but God desireth the next life for you.
— Surah 8:58
And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God [Allah] wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush.
— Surah 9:5
O Believers! only they who join gods with God [Allah] are unclean!…Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God…and who profess not the profession of the truth…The Jews say, “Ezra (Ozair) is a son of God”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is a son of God.” Such the sayings in their mouths! They resemble the saying of the Infidels of old! God do battle with them! How they are misguided!
— Surah 9:28-30
O Prophet! make war on the infidels and hypocrites, and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their abode! and wretched the passage to it!
— Surah 66:9

Other Teachings of Islam

In addition to the Qur'an, a faithful Muslim adheres to the Articles of Faith, and practices the Five Pillars of the Faith.

Articles of Faith

God: There is only one true God and his name is Allah. Allah is all-knowing, all-powerful and the supreme judge. He is not a personal God, for he is so far above man in every way that he is not personally knowable.

Angels: Gabriel is the leading angel who supposedly appeared to Muhammad and was instrumental in delivering the revelations of the Qur'an to Muhammad. Each person has two recording angels — one who records his good deeds, and the other to record his bad deeds.

Scripture: The Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, the Gospels of Jesus Christ, and the Qur'an. The former three have been corrupted by Jews and Christians. The Qur'an is the most recent and final word to man, and as such, supersedes all the other works.

Prophets: The six greatest: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Muhammad is the last and greatest of all of Allah's prophets.

The Last Days: A time of resurrection and judgment. Those who obey Allah and Muhammad will go to Islamic heaven, called Paradise — a place of much sensual pleasure. Those who oppose them will be tormented in hell.

Note: A sixth article of faith, not always stated as such, but a central teaching of Islam is Kismet, the belief in God's decrees, the doctrine of fate. A very rigid view of determinism or predestination which states that all good and evil proceeds from the divine will. "It is Allah's will" or "Allah willed it" expresses this basic belief of Islam.

Five Pillars of Faith

The Creed: "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah." This must be stated aloud publicly in order to become a Muslim, and it is repeated constantly by the faithful.

Prayer: A ritual that is central to the devout Muslim, and is repeated five times a day: upon rising, at noon, at mid afternoon, after sunset, and upon retiring. The worshipper must recite the prescribed prayers in Arabic while facing Mecca, the birth place of Muhammad.

Almsgiving: Originally voluntary, but now Muslims are legally required to give one fortieth (1/40th) of their income to the destitute. 

Fasting (Ramadan): Faithful Muslims fast from sunup to sundown each day during the holy month. Supposedly it develops self-control, devotion to God, and identity with the destitute. 

The Pilgrimage: At least once in their lifetime Muslims must visit Mecca. If the trip is too expensive for the poor or too difficult for the elderly or infirm, they may send someone in their place.

Note: A sixth practice which many Muslims in the West deny or do not admit to, is called Ji'had. The basic tenet of Ji'had is "death to all infidels" (all non-Muslims, especially the Jews and Christians). Traditional teaching: Kill an infidel for Allah's sake and entrance into Paradise is certain — the more you kill the greater your blessing in Paradise. 

Observance of all of these Pillars (practices) is required for salvation according to Islam: clearly a salvation by works, which the Bible says cannot save anyone — Muslim, Christian, Jew, or anyone else.

Suggestions for Reaching Muslims

Use the Bible. Let God's Word speak for itself. It is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12; Isaiah 55:10; Jeremiah 20:9; 23:28, 29). 

Rely upon prayer. Through prayer and relying upon the Holy Spirit you can gain the victory (John 15:7; 1 John 5:14, 15; Acts 1:8). 

Be a friend. Treat them as equals. Display genuine interest in what concerns them (Colossians 4:5, 6; Philippians 2:3, 4). 

Listen attentively. When you ask a question be polite enough to listen to the answer, and don't be impatient. Allow them to express their beliefs fully and you will learn much that may help in winning them. 

Ask appropriate questions. "Do you believe you will eventually go to heaven or Paradise? How confident are you? Upon what do you base your confidence? Is there anything in the Qur'an that would convince me that it is the Word of God?" Muslims generally appreciate thought-provoking questions. Note Jesus' pattern in Matthew 21:23–27; 22:15–22, 41–46. 

Present the gospel clearly and simply. Be lovingly bold, sharing passages that make the gospel clear (Ephesians 2:8, 9; Romans 5:6–8; 1 John 5:13). 

 • Persuade but do not argue. It is never right to argue the gospel. You may win arguments and lose people (Acts 14:1; 17:1–4, 16, 17; 18:1–4, 9–13; 19:8–10; 2 Timothy 2:24–26). 

Never belittle Muhammad or the Koran. You will greatly offend them and lose an opportunity for the gospel to do its work (Romans 1:16, 17; Colossians 4:5, 6). 

Be sensitive. It would be offensive to them for you to put your Bible on the floor, for it is a holy book. Be careful of being too familiar with the opposite sex. Christian men should not approach Muslim women, and Christian women should not approach Muslim men. Do not be flippant about sacred things and do not refuse hospitality. 

Be patient. You probably won't win a Muslim to Christ using a five-minute canned approach to sharing the gospel. They have to rethink many things and you must give them time to think through what you share.

Are the Miraculous Gifts of the Spirit for Today?

Upon examination of Scripture it seems that some of the gifts of the Spirit were only given to the apostles — foundational gifts used for the first century church.

There have been numerous interpretations about this and just as many approaches to the subject. My approach is quite simple. As with all topics upon which the Bible sheds some light, I follow three vital principles in reaching my conclusions.

First, study the content of any verse or passage. Be careful not read into it anything that is not there; or leave out anything that is there. The major question becomes, "What does it say?" not what does it seem to say.

Second, study the context of the passage. The context is that which is surrounding the verse or verses under consideration. Every verse (with the exception of some in Proverbs) has a surrounding context that gives added insight. To consider a verse out of its context and then give it a meaning that fits one's notions or experiences is dangerous, and leads to no certain truth. 

Third, interpret unclear or vague statements by those that are clear and literal, never the reverse of this principle. 

Why Did God Give the Miraculous Gifts?

We can determine the answer to this question by discovering from Scripture the purpose of such gifts, and there are only two New Testament passages that tell us specifically what that purpose was.

So then after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through accompanying signs.
— Mark 16:19, 20
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
— Hebrews 2: 3, 4

In both passages God worked with these apostles through miraculous signs and gifts of the Spirit for the express purpose of confirming the word spoken by them. In fact, the writer of Hebrews is explicit in stating that the word spoken by the apostles was "confirmed to us" through these miraculous abilities God had imparted. 

Included in these "signs, wonders, and miracles" was the ability to cast out demons, miraculously speak in other languages unknown to them, heal the sick, and drink anything deadly without it harming them (Mark 16:17, 18). Incidentally, as with Christ, the early apostles and prophets almost always performed their miracles in "enemy" territory among unbelievers — sometimes among hateful unbelievers who wanted to kill them, not in rented facilities filled with sympathetic believers.

Were the Miraculous Gifts Intended Only for the New Testament Apostles and Prophets?

The New Testament clearly reveals that God had unique purposes for the apostles and prophets that were not to be repeated by others later on in church history.

The Apostle Paul: In writing to the Corinthian church Paul made it as clear as can be that the miraculous sign-gifts imparted to him by God were strictly apostolic in nature.

I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
— 2 Corinthians 12:11, 12

If these "signs and wonders and mighty deeds" were intended for all believers, or for any believer who wanted them badly enough, they would not have been, nor could they have been, "the signs of an apostle." Let the impact of what Paul is saying sink in. These "signs and wonders and mighty deeds" were presented by Paul as proof of his apostleship, setting him apart from the run-of-the-mill Christians. These miraculous abilities had nothing to do with the baptism of the Spirit or with spirituality in general. They were divinely imparted confirmations that Paul was indeed one of the apostles — a unique first century position in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament Apostles and Prophets: These men comprised the foundation of the Church. 

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers…but…members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
— Ephesians 2:19, 20

Foundations are laid at the bottom or beginning of a building, not throughout its structure. Are miraculous gifts for the Church? Absolutely, yes. However, the miraculous gifts are apostolic gifts, and thus they are the foundation of the Church. We do not live during the laying of the Church's foundation. That occurred in the first century. We are living more than 2000 years later and, as with any structure, we dare not attempt to lay again the foundation of the Church on the third, the 16th, or the 22nd floors! We would not have a strong cohesive structure if we did that, but that is exactly what some individuals are attempting to do. They may be well meaning, but sincerity is no substitute for truth and we would not have a strong, cohesive structure. 

What Have We Learned?

• All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the Church. 

• Foundational gifts were for the foundation, comprised of New Testament apostles and prophets. These gifts were miraculous in nature and should remain where God placed them — with the foundation. 

• All gifts of the Spirit, other than foundational gifts, are for the rest of the Church age. They are built upon that foundation with "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone."

• Today's believers are part of the building, the growing Church. We are not the foundation, nor should we desire to be.

Paul states:

In whom [Christ] the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
— Ephesians 2:21, 22

But Isn't God the Same Today as He was Then?

It is clearly taught throughout the Bible that God does not change in His essential nature. However, it is just as clearly taught that while God Himself does not change, His dealings with men often do. In fact, at times He has changed His methods with the same people at different stages of their lives. We sometimes have the mistaken notion that the Old Testament is a record of one big miracle after another; such, however, is just not the case. Miraculous happenings appeared in clusters, not throughout Old Testament history. Not everyone back then was a Moses or a Joshua or an Elijah. And not everyone in the Church age is a Paul or a Peter.

God is still the God of miracles, but on His terms, not ours. If we truly desire for God to reveal His presence in our lives today, then we need to let Him be God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, not as we wish Him to be, or as some dynamic speaker says He ought to be. Be a believer who build his life solely upon Scripture, and be satisfied with that.

Enduring to the End

Among those who believe in and preach a salvation by works, or who believe their security in Christ is conditioned upon their consistent performance of good deeds, there is probably no thought more prevalent to them than: I must keep on keeping on. I've got to hang in there until I meet the Lord. I've got to hold on no matter what. In the language of Scripture, the thought is expressed this way: "He who endures to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, and Mark 13:13).

Thus we hear these well-meaning folks say things such as this: It just is not enough to believe in Christ; you must also endure to the end. The Bible says so. The usual meaning behind such sentiments is that once you have put your faith in Christ you must then "endure" (never give into) temptations and the trials of life until you die, if you expect to meet the Lord in heaven. Failure to do so would result in losing your salvation. Once you've lost your salvation, they say you may then repent and start all over with the Lord. If you don't, and you die in such a backslidden condition, you who were once saved will instead spend an eternity separated from God in hell.

Determining What It Means

Now, the issue is not: Does the Bible actually say we must "endure to the end" to be saved and go to heaven? Rather, what must be determined is what does this phrase mean?

It really isn't that difficult to understand the three passages in which Christ made this statement if we carefully consider the contexts in which this statement occurs.

Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 go together. They appear in the same context where some of Jesus' disciples asked Him, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"

Christ then walked them through the present age, emphasizing that there will be many false prophets and false Messiahs bent on deceiving men, including believers.

Matthew's account says:

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
— Matthew 24:11–13

Mark's record states it this way:

Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all men for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.
— Mark 13:12–13

However, just before we consider what enduring to the end means in these two parallel passages, I want to mention the third passage where the statement is found, because my approach to understanding all three passages is the same.

Matthew 10:22: The statement under consideration in this verse has a different, but somewhat similar, context. In this chapter Christ called 12 men out of the multitude of disciples, made them apostles (verses 1–4), and sent them out "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (verses 5–6). Verses 5–42 contain His instructions and warnings to them as they prepare to go on this missionary trip. The particular passage we are looking at begins with this admonition:

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men.
— Matthew 10:16–17

The entire paragraph then describes the terrible things unbelieving men will do, or will attempt to do, to these twelve. Christ sums up with:

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
— Matthew 10:22

Three Vital Questions We Must Ask

Gaining a proper understanding of these passages is greatly simplified if we ask ourselves three basic questions that unlock the passages in a clean, natural way without having to force an interpretation upon any of them.

The three questions can be succinctly stated:

  • Endure what?
  • To the end of what?
  • Be saved from what?

Endure what?

In all three passages it is clear that the disciples would be hated for Christ's sake. In Matthew 24 and Mark 13 the hatred of men toward them is in a setting of trying to persuade them to believe false teaching and to follow false Messiahs. Jesus said, "Many will come in My name…and deceive many" (Matthew 24:5; Mark 13:6). So, in answer to the above question, the disciples were to endure the attempts of hateful men who wanted to deceive them.

In Matthew 10:22 men wanted to keep the twelve from preaching their message: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (verse 7); they were attempting to shut them up through persecution (verses 16–23). These 12 were to endure (put up with, not cave in to) the attempts of hateful men to silence them.

To the end of what?

In the Matthew 24 and Mark 13 passages they were to endure to the end of their lives or to the end of the Tribulation, whichever came first. In the same context we are told: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21–22; and Mark 13:19–20).

In Matthew 10:22 they were to endure to the end of that particular mission which was directed only toward Israel. They were not to preach to Gentiles or Samaritans (verses 5–6).

Saved from what?

The use of this word saved is more than likely the cause for much of the misinterpretation of the entire statement about enduring. The Greek word translated "saved" means to be delivered or protected. What is to be delivered or protected? Man's spirit? His soul? No, not according to any of these passages. The Matthew 24 / Mark 13 verses say, "Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved" (the same Greek word meaning delivered or protected). So, the promise is to be delivered from physical death.

The same is true in Matthew 10:22. In verse 21 Jesus said, "Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death." Verse 22 follows with "he that endures to the end shall be saved" (delivered). They would be saved from premature death at the hands of those who would like to silence them in their preaching of the kingdom.

When these passages are looked at in their respective contexts, there is no hint of the possibility of either losing your salvation or in keeping it through endurance. To get such an interpretation demands that one lift the statements out of their contexts and read into them what simply is not there. Never read into verses your preconceptions.

Is Endurance Not Important?

Though endurance is not a condition for being saved or remaining saved, for the child of God (one who is saved) endurance is an absolute necessity for a lifetime of fruitfulness and blessing from God.

Far too many believers "throw in the towel" when things get rough while serving the Lord. How many persons do you know who at one time were being used mightily of the Lord, but who now are spiritual dropouts? This is not how God intends it to be.

The apostle Paul, for instance, included this in the last letter he wrote before his death: "Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect." To endure here means, "to be steadfast under." In Paul's case, he was steadfast under tremendous persecutions, trials and difficulties for the sake of the gospel and the Church. The apostle Paul finished well.

When the writer of Hebrews wrote of Abraham's trust in God's promise of a child, it says of him: "And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise" (6:15). The promise here is not of eternal salvation, but of God's guarantee that through His servant Abraham entire nations would be blessed through his offspring. Abraham finished well.

In Hebrews 10:36 we read, "For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise." And 12:1–2 tells us to "lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith."

Our salvation from beginning to end is in Christ. Looking to Him, we who are His may also finish well. Enduring the trials of life guarantees that we will.

Our salvation from beginning to end is in Christ. Looking to Him, we who are His may also finish well. Enduring the trials of life guarantees that we will.

What Is Happening to the Gospel?

It is a strange phenomenon in current Christian circles that while attempting to be contemporary or unified or seeker-friendly or even biblical, the real gospel is often getting lost in the shuffle.

The Christian Left is highly concerned about social justice and the inequalities of today's world, and they do an amazing job addressing these issues helping people's external needs. But in the process some almost completely ignore the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ — which is the only thing capable of cleaning up people's internal needs.

The Christian Middle (usually called the Evangelicals) has been busy for too long a time attempting to impress the world and the intellectuals on the Christian Left with their own intellectualism. Then, too, the Middle tries to balance its show of intellectual prowess with a loving concern that embraces all who "name the name of Christ." Unity is the rallying cry, but in the effort to establish a unified front to the world, the gospel ends up getting muddied, twisted, and redefined by a conglomeration of theological opinions under the one roof of "Unity".

Then there is the Christian Right known as Fundamentalists. These folks are so often embroiled in fighting against one thing or another — including each other — that even if they do slip in the gospel on occasion, the unbelieving world misses it because of the bombardment of embittered negativism that flows from some of their pulpits.

How Do We Understand What We Hear?

Let's pretend for a moment that we gather together all the thousands of leaders from the various factions of Christendom under one roof — call it a World Congress of Gospel Preaching. The keynote speaker stands before this notable group of the world's finest Christian workers, and says, "The greatest need in the world today is for people to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ." There is an instant cascade of "Amens" from all corners of the giant hall. We are thrilled with such an enthusiastic response. But wait. What's happening here? What's really going on?

While participants from all segments of Christianity would be affirming their agreement with the statement, each would be running that statement through the grid of their own theological leanings. In other words, though they would be agreeing with what was said, they would be defining what they heard in the light of their own understanding of "the gospel." The Baptists, Catholics, Nazarenes, Pentecostals, Independents, and Ecumenists, would all be agreeing with the statement but only as they define "gospel" in their own way.

For instance, a member of the Church of Christ might agree that the greatest need in the world is to get the gospel to the lost, but to their way of thinking the "gospel" demands that the unbeliever must do six things in order to be saved: 1) hear the gospel, 2) believe in Christ, 3) repent, by which they mean turn from sin, 4) confess Christ publicly, 5) be baptized in water by immersion, and 6) be obedient to the Lord's commands throughout the rest of one's life. If one becomes disobedient they would lose their salvation. This is nothing less than a by-works salvation, which is no salvation at all!

What it seems to boil down to is simply this: semantic noise —where we agree with one another's proclamations because no one is being definitive enough to cause any disagreement. In fact, disagreeing with another so-called "brother" is viewed as being tantamount to being unloving. We seem to forget that almost every time Jesus or one of the apostles opened their mouths they caused divisions. Clearly stating truth does that, even when done in love (see Ephesians 4:14–15).

Thank God, there are true lights springing up in our current confused swirl of evangelistic activities. Individuals and groups are appearing who have that single-minded dedication and vision that will not be overshadowed by secondary concerns. God is raising up more and more voices from men and women who are clearly articulating the simple and powerful words and truths of the gospel of Christ. We are rediscovering grace. Some are finding the true meaning of words like gift, faith, believe, and eternal. Perhaps there is a revival in the making — a revival of taking God's Word at face value without any additions or deletions.

Clear Communicators Needed

If you are…

Convinced of the accuracy, infallibility and authority of God's Word, the Bible;

Trusting solely upon Christ and His payment for your sins, and in His resurrection for your justification;

Sure that you have eternal life (because salvation does not depend in any way upon anything you do, but upon God's grace alone);

Fully persuaded that this gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is, indeed, the answer to man's deepest needs;

…then you may be one whom God is looking for to "stand in the gap" sharing the gospel of His love and grace to those without Christ and without hope (see Ezekiel 22:30; Psalm 106:23).

What Should Be Included?

The message of salvation should always include some very basic facts. They are:

  • God's Requirement is that man must be perfect to enter heaven.
  • Man's Condition is that he is sinful, not perfect at all.
  • God's Provision to meet man's need was the sending of His own son, Jesus, to be our Savior.
  • Man's Response is believing in Jesus — which means to trust in Him, to depend upon Him, and rely on Him for salvation.
  • God's Guarantee that those who believe have eternal life because Christ died in their place.

What Will It Cost?

Though the monetary cost of spreading the gospel worldwide is great, money does not begin to measure the true cost of reaching the lost.

During one of His many discourses, Jesus expressed how hard it is for a rich man to be saved, because such men tend to trust in their uncertain riches for everything (see 1 Timothy 6:17).

Peter spoke up and said:

See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore, what shall we have?
— Matthew 19:27

So Jesus answered:

Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.
— Mark 10:29–30

It seems to me that if I want to be the spokesman for the Lord, certain things must follow.

I must have an unswerving devotion to spread His gospel, for no other so-called gospel really saves anyone (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Then I must present the gospel in all of its power and simplicity (2 Corinthians 3:12).

I must have a single-mindedness that will compel me to be faithful in my daily talk and walk before my God (Philippians 1:27).

I must not manipulate the gospel to fit anyone's whims, including my own (1 Corinthians 2:1–5; 2 Corinthians 2:17, 4:1–6).

I must present the gospel in all of its fullness: the positives — heaven, eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and the negatives — hell, judgment, warnings (Galatians 1:6–9).

All preconceived notions of what the gospel may or may not be must be totally subjected to the written Word of God, the Bible, and to this gospel which alone saves (Matthew 24:35).

As we face the uncertain days ahead let us determine before God that we will believe, know, proclaim, and defend the gospel of the Scriptures, with no additions or subtractions. And let us do it beginning now.

Romans 10:9–10

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Can a person be saved without a public demonstration, such as walking down an aisle, raising their hand, standing, kneeling at an altar, or signing a commitment card? Romans 10:9–10 is often used to indicate that a "public profession" is essential to salvation. Having a clear understanding of these verses is vital.

As in all serious Bible study there are three things we always want to do:

  1. Study the contents of the passage. To do this, we ask, "What is in the verse or verses under consideration?" We want to be careful not to overlook anything.
  2. Study the context of the passage. What is the setting of the verse or verses I am studying? What is the subject? What has the writer been discussing? To whom is he speaking?
  3. Study all other related passages. This involves a study of the topic under consideration as it is discussed throughout the Bible.

If we are serious about knowing what the Bible teaches, we dare not be in a hurry. Rushing to a conclusion without the careful and prayerful study of the Scriptures nearly always proves to be disastrous. Folks tend to resort to hurry-up methods when preparing for a Bible class or in "working up" a sermon. Whenever we approach the Bible in that way, we are trivializing it, and will one day give an account before God for such a slipshod treatment of His holy Word. Now let's discuss Romans 10:9-10.

Considering the Contents

I have concluded that the key word in Romans 10:9 is "and".

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
— Romans 10:9

The word "and" in this verse is a translation of the Greek word kai. Depending on the context and the author's purpose, kai may be variously translated. It has more than one use and more than one meaning in the New Testament.

Kai is usually translated "and" when it is used as a simple connective word. For instance:

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child, with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
— Matthew 2:11

All four occurrences of kai in this verse are used to connect each thought. This is the common way we use "and" in English.

Kai is also used to indicate contrast. We see it used this way in John 16:13:

However, when He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His own authority, but [kai] whatever He hears He will speak; and will tell you things to come.
— John 16:13

A third use is seen when the intention of a passage is to emphasize something. This emphatic use is clear in 2 Corinthians 11:1:

Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly — and indeed [kai] you do bear with me.
— 2 Corinthians 11:1

Finally, it is important to note that kai is used at times when the Holy Spirit wants to give some additional explanation to what has just been said. When used in this way kai is generally translated "even", as in 1 Corinthians 2:10: "For the Spirit searches all things, even [kai] the deep things of God." In this instance "all things" particularly includes "the deep things of God."

Now, how does all of this apply to our verse? Simply this: I believe kai in Romans 10:9 should be translated "even" — so that it would read: "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, even believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved." Applying this usage, "confess with your mouth" is further explained to mean "even believe in your heart."

What has brought me to this conclusion? Two things primarily (other than the actual contents of the verse): context and the testimony of all other Scripture on the same subject of salvation. I'll illustrate.

Considering the Context

The emphasis in Romans 10 is twofold: righteousness by faith in contrast to righteousness by works (especially the works of the Law), and the recognition of Jesus as Lord, that is, His deity.

Righteousness by faith

Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
— Romans 10:1–4

The Lordship (deity) of Christ

That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus [literally, Jesus as Lord]… For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
— Romans 10:9, 10:12–13

These were the very two things the Jews refused to do: yield to a by-faith righteousness provided by God through Messiah Jesus (see Romans 9:30–33), and recognize the full deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Also, in the context it is essential to notice that in Romans 10:9 Paul places confession with the mouth before believing in the heart which follows the order stated in verse 8.

The word is near you, even in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach).
— Romans 10:8

But in verses 10 and following Paul gives the order of actual experience, and we see that believing comes before confession. This is verified in verses 13–15:

For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?
— Romans 10:13–15

The "confession" in verses 9 and 10 is the "calling" in verses 13 and 14. Notice the order as we work our way backwards from verse 15 to verse 13: 

How shall they preach unless they are sent? Which comes first, the preaching or the sending? The sending.

How shall they hear without a preacher? Which comes first, the hearing or the preaching? The preaching; otherwise, there is nothing to hear.

And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? Which comes first, the believing or the hearing? The hearing comes first, as stated in verse 17. Without the hearing there is nothing to believe.

How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? Which comes first, the calling or the believing? The believing. The mouth confesses what the heart has already believed. So, the call of verse 13 is a call to the Lord (not necessarily to people) springing from a heart that already believes.

Considering the Testimony of All Scripture

The united testimony of Scripture on salvation is that God offers salvation to the lost on one condition and only one condition — belief in Christ.

To be justified we must have God's righteousness credited to our account:

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
— Romans 4:5

In the first five chapters of Romans, God carefully explains that salvation is by faith in Christ, plus nothing else. This agrees with 160 New Testament verses. After giving the most detailed explanation of salvation by faith found in the Bible, Paul would not then teach there is something more that must be done for one to be saved; namely, verbal confession.

There is also the further testimony of those who were genuinely saved but who did not publicly declare their faith. They were, at least for a time, secret believers.

Nicodemus is described as he who "came to Jesus by night" in all references to him in the Scriptures (John 3:1–2, 7:50, 19:39). He did not demonstrate that he had already believed in Christ until after Christ's crucifixion when he brought spices for Jesus' burial.

Joseph of Arimathea, "being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews" (John 19:38). We must accept this testimony of God's Word as being valid.

The "many" in John 12:42:

Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.
— John 12:42

Some declare these were not genuine believers, but who shall we believe, men or God? The verse says they "believed in Him."

So confession of Christ, though expected by God and normal for the believer, is not a condition for receiving eternal life, nor is it really the subject of Romans 10:9–10.

When Life Does Not Turn out as You Planned

Life can be so complicated and confusing at times. We struggle to make ends meet and begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel, only to lose our job or our health fails. We pray for strength and we seem to get even weaker. We ask God to deliver us from evil and the devil works overtime bombarding us with one alluring temptation after another. At times we feel like giving up. Serving God does not seem to work for us. There just does not appear to be any rhyme or reason to our existence. Does this sound familiar? Have you ever been there? Do you know someone who is being stretched so much that they are near the breaking point?

Well, the good news is that there is a way to keep from living a life burdened by your circumstances. There is hope. There are solutions.

Bible Principles that Work

I'm going to share some Bible examples in a moment, but first let's consider some concrete principles — ones that will enable us to face any situation victoriously.

First, it is important to know that if you are God's child, He is vitally interested in the details of your personal life. Although He is gracious to believers and unbelievers alike (see Matthew 5:45), God is not normally involved in the unbeliever's life on a personal level. This privilege is reserved for those who are His children.

As His child, God leads you: "The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me" (Psalm 23:1–3). He will also provide for you: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [food, drink, and clothing] shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Further proof of His personal interest in you is His gracious invitation for you to cast "all your care upon Him, for He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). It matters to Him concerning you, and His wonderful promise to come to your aid demonstrates His loving concern for you.

Second, realize that God's perfect character will not allow Him to do wrong. Things may not always seem as if they are right or fair, but we can rest in the fact that since God is who and what He is, He can do no wrong. Abraham had it correct when he declared, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). If God is as the Bible describes Him (and as my experience has proven Him), it cannot be any other way.

Third, relax in the relationship God established with you when you trusted in Christ as your Savior. At that instant He became your heavenly Father and you became His child. He personally trains and disciplines every son and daughter He receives. Hebrews 12 sums it up beautifully:

My son, do not despise the chastening [discipline] of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives… But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.
— Hebrews 12:5–6, 12:8

Fourth, recognize that you only see the "here and now," while God sees the entire picture from beginning to end. Don't allow yourself to judge God's integrity or character based on the very narrow view you have of your present situation. You just do not have the capabilities to see things as they really are in the grand scheme of things. None of us are capable of that, but God sees the end of things from their beginning. Meditate upon these great verses:

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.”
— Isaiah 46:9–10
And, I have declared the former thing from the beginning; they went forth from My mouth, and I caused them to hear it. Suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.
— Isaiah 48:3

Fifth, in light of what was just said, practice taking the long view. Don't allow yourself to look at a present circumstance in light of what appears to be; nor dare to attempt to understand what is happening in your life based on its pleasantness or unpleasantness. This principle was clearly demonstrated in the life of Jesus when He was facing the cross. One of the most beautifully touching passages of Scripture describes it:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him [the long view] endured the cross [the present unpleasant situation], despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2

Make it your habit to look beyond the apparent and look to the God who sees and knows all.

Sixth, rejoice in God's sovereignty. He is in control — not circumstances, not luck, not the fickle finger of fate, not other people. Because He is sovereign over all, God can change circumstances. He can move people to change their minds, their decisions, and their actions. No prophet was any more certain of this than Daniel. King Darius came to the lions den after Daniel's enemies had thrown him into it, and inquired, "Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?" He, who was wrongfully fed to the lions and survived, gave the credit for his deliverance where it rightly belonged. His quick reply to the king was, "O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lion's mouths, so that they have not hurt me" (Daniel 6:20–22).

Earlier in his life, this same Daniel had told King Nebuchadnezzar: "The Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men" (Daniel 4:17). And even Nebuchadnezzar himself would eventually come to his senses and declare:

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He [God] does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”
— Daniel 4:35

Finally, be thankful that nothing comes into your life as a child of God without there being a divine purpose for it, or without God turning it around for your ultimate good. Consider:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good think will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
— Psalm 84:11

Then, God led Paul to pen the following immortal words. (See also Isaiah 30:18 and Jeremiah 29:11.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
— Romans 8:28

The Human Response

A yielded, submissive heart reaps God's riches blessings. Scriptural examples abound.

  • Noah building a huge ship on dry land waiting for a gigantic flood which had never occurred before and he and his family were saved (Genesis 6–7)
  • Abraham offering up his only son, Isaac and God spared him giving descendants innumerable (Genesis 22)
  • Joseph, Jacob's son, being sold into slavery by his brothers, only to eventually become the number two ruler over all of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh (Genesis 37–50)
  • Job losing all that he had, including his seven children and his health, living to see God restore to him "twice as much as he had before" (Job 1:1–2:20, 42:10)
  • David being hunted like a wild animal by King Saul, yet eventually being crowned king over all Israel (1 Samuel)
  • Queen Esther risking her life for the sake of her own Jewish people who were on the brink of extermination and they were delivered (Esther 4)
  • The New Testament Joseph, because he believed God concerning his betrothed, took Mary as his wife when her pregnancy seemed rather suspicious and through her Messiah Jesus was born (Matthew 1:18–25)
  • The apostle Paul viewing all of his trials as simply means "for the furtherance of the gospel" and "all the world" heard (Philippians 1:12; Colossians 1:5–6, 1:23)

And what about you? Are you going through some bewildering, hurtful times? The God whom all of these Bible heroes trusted is still actively working on your behalf today. In simple submission reach out to Him and say with the Psalmist, "My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:2). His promise is: "He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber…the Lord is your keeper" (Psalm 121:5). Trust Him in your darkest hour and He will prove to be your light, your deliverer, and the strength of your life (Psalm 27:1). What an awesome God we have.

Understanding Repentance

There is only one condition for man to meet to obtain salvation.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.
— Acts 16:31
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies [declares righteous] the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.
— Romans 4:5

Over 160 times in the New Testament God gives the single condition of believing in Christ for obtaining salvation or eternal life. The few verses that appear to present other conditions for being saved do not really do so when they are considered in their respective contexts. It is safe and very biblical to declare that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The above statement being true, repentance is not, nor can it be, another step or condition for obtaining salvation. It is, however, something that happens in every nonbeliever who becomes a believer in Christ. You might ask, "How can repentance be a necessity and yet not be a step one must take to obtain God's salvation?" This question is best answered by observing the Bible's definition of repentance in contrast to man's view of it when speaking of salvation. The Greek word translated "repentance" is metanoia and always means a change of mind or attitude. For instance, the apostle Paul described the gospel message he preached as "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts20:21).

I believe it is safe to say that every nonbeliever has some misconception concerning God and how to be in right relationship with Him through Christ. It is impossible, therefore, for someone to move from a state of unbelief to faith in Christ without having a change of mind or attitude concerning God and His offer of salvation. That's biblical repentance.

Biblical repentance is not a work

For salvation, a person must change his mind about any misconceptions regarding God's way of salvation. And God's way of salvation is always by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, without the addition of any human merit or works of any kind. Therefore, if a person must repent to be saved, repentance cannot be something unsaved people can point to as having merit by which to commend themselves to God.

The way a person thinks about God is the real issue, not what sins he may or may not have committed. This is demonstrated so beautifully in 2 Corinthians 4:3–6.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this world [Satan] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them… For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
— 2 Corinthians 4:3–6

In contrast to God's Word, many define repentance as turning from sin, being sorry for sin, or quitting certain more obvious sins or bad habits. By this definition, repentance, and therefore salvation, would be by someone's works or efforts instead of by God's matchless and undeserving grace. The issue is not turning from sin; it is changing one's mind toward Christ and trusting in Him for salvation. Turning from sin would involve service, which is only demanded of one who is already saved. Salvation, on the other hand, is always a gift, never the result of what we do concerning our sins. It is trusting in Christ and what He has already done about our sins.

The Unbeliever's Dilemma

An unsaved person cannot really please God even if he does "good works." Romans 8:8 is pretty clear on this point:

So then, those who are in the flesh [the natural person] cannot please God.
— Romans 8:8

And Isaiah 64:6 removes any hope of man relying on his goodness when it declares that "all our righteousnesses [the best we can do] are as filthy rags." It is only after one has come to Christ by faith that he or she, as a member of God's family, is commanded to change. Such changes undoubtedly involve turning from or leaving certain sinful habits. In fact, the Bible makes that very clear. For instance, consider Titus 2:11–12. You might want to also look up: Romans 12:1–2, 13:14; Ephesians 2:10, 4:27–32.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying [renouncing, rejecting] ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.
— Titus 2:11–12

An Urgent Reminder

If you are to be effective in making God's saving gospel clear to the unsaved world, you must become convinced that any teaching demanding a change of conduct before God will give salvation is adding works or human effort to faith. This contradicts all clear Scriptures on salvation, and it is an accursed message that cannot save. See Galatians 1:8–9 and Deuteronomy 27:18.

Rediscovering the Correct Emphasis

The wrong emphasis on this matter of repentance is due largely to the fact that so many unsaved people think they can't be saved until they give up their beer, cigarettes, cursing, or other so-called vices. The confusion has come from the Christian professionals who have themselves been wrongly taught in Bible school or seminary. But, thankfully, not all have followed the theological crowd. Here, for instance, are some of my favorite quotes from spiritual giants of the past.

The word metanoia is in every instance translated repentance. The word means a change of mind. The common practice of reading into this word the thought of sorrow and heart-anguish is responsible for much confusion in the field of Soteriology [the study of salvation].
Systematic Theology by Lewis Sperry Chafer, ThD
But in order to clarify the subject, it may be well to observe carefully what repentance is not, and then to notice what it is.

First, then, repentance is not to be confounded with penitence… Penitence is simply sorrow for sin. Nowhere is man exhorted to feel a certain amount of sorrow for his sins in order to come to Christ.

Second, penance is not repentance. Penance is an effort in some way to atone for the wrong done. In the third place, let us remember that reformation is not repentance. Need I add that repentance then is not to be considered synonymous with joining a church, or taking up one’s religious duties, as people say? It is not doing anything.

The Greek word, metanoia, which is translated repentance in our English Bibles, literally means a change of mind.
Except Ye Repent by Harry A. Ironside, Litt.D
What place has repentance in salvation? Should we tell people to repent of their sins to be saved? The Gospel of John is the Holy Spirit’s gospel tract, written that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing they might have life through His name… And it does not mention the word “repentance.” But that is only because repentance is a necessary part of saving faith. Strictly speaking, the word repentance means a “change of mind.” It is by no means the same as sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). Since it is not possible for an unbeliever to become a believer without changing his mind, it is therefore unnecessary to say anything about it. The only thing for a man to do in order to be saved is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; and to believe on Him is the same thing as receiving Him (John 1:11–13).
Bible Questions Answered by William L. Pettingill, D.D.

A Personal Plea

This article is not an attempt to split some theological hair; it is a sincere effort to help God's people who desire to reach the unbelieving world with the gospel to share that gospel in a clear, understandable and biblical way.

For further study on the topic of repentance, check out Dr. Seymour's book, All About Repentance.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

As it is with any verse of Scripture, it is important to examine this verse in its context. Paul has been talking about the believer having God's approval upon his or her life (v. 9), whether that approval is while we continue laboring for Him in this body or while serving face-to-face with Him in heaven (vv. 1–11).

Starting with the fact that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" to give an account of the things done in our bodies (v. 10), Paul then develops a strong argument for why believers should live for Christ. He reasons that we should live for the Lord because:

  • We will one day stand before Christ to account for the good and bad things done in our bodies (vv. 10–11).
  • Our lives and motives are already an open book to God (v. 11).
  • We are constrained by the love of Christ (v. 14).
  • Since Christ died for all of us, then all of us should live for Him (vv. 14–15).
  • We should no longer look upon others from a human, fleshly, or external viewpoint, but as God sees them (v. 16).
  • We are new creations. Our old condition before God has been completely changed now that we are in Christ. All of this "newness" is of God (vv. 17–19).
  • Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, pleading with others on Christ's behalf to be reconciled to God (vv. 20–21).

Viewing Others As God Does

Verse 16 is especially helpful in understanding the meaning of this passage. To give a more complete understanding I will quote it in multiple translations:

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
— New King James Version
So from this moment on, I do not estimate anybody by the standard of outward appearances.
— Charles Williams, The New Testament in the Language of the People
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.
— Revised Standard Version
Once convinced of this, then, I estimate no one by what is external.
— James Moffatt, A New Translation
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.
— New American Standard Bible

What does this mean to a proper understanding of verse 17? Simply this: since Christ has died for all, then it is as if all died when He gave His life on the cross. Verse 14 says, "If One died for all, then all died." That being so, several things become evident:

  1. I should no longer live for myself, but "for Him who died…and rose again" (v. 15).
  2. I should no longer view or judge my fellow man, especially fellow believers, by outward, fleshly appearances; that is, I should recognize them as God does. Those who are in Christ are "new creations;" those who are not, are of the old creation in Adam (see Romans 5:12–21; 1 Corinthians 15:45–49). Therefore, I should view a believer as one who has died with Christ and risen with Him to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).
  3. Whether or not I detect any changes, I should recognize that all who are truly in Christ are new creations of God. Such a true believer has the new birth, is God's spiritual creation, and has the Divine guarantee that the old state of affairs has passed away once and for all; all things are now brand new between the believer and God (v. 17).

So Why Is This Important?

All that I've said up to this point becomes very revealing when we stop to consider that the usual, almost universal, use of verse 17 is just the opposite of how it should be interpreted.

This verse is often quoted when one gives a personal testimony. I was saved in June of 1953. Later that same year a number of young people returned from their respective Christian colleges for the Christmas break. We had our usual Saturday night youth rally and many of them were present. When the leader asked for testimonies, one after another stood and shared thoughts similar to this:

My favorite verse is 2 Corinthians 5:17. I thank the Lord so much for all the changes in my life. I used to smoke, and drink, and curse; but now God has changed all of that. The things I once loved, I now hate; and the things I used to hate I now love. God has made all things new!

I sat there dumbfounded. Doubts began to flood my mind. I knew that all things were not new in my life. I still smoked, still used curse words on occasion, and had an ongoing battle with lust and my temper. Though I had a few doubts about my salvation prior to this, I now began to have major questions and doubts.

Was I not saved because all things were not new? I thought that must be the case. So, on Sundays I would walk the aisle just in case it didn't work the first time — or the second — or the third. Confusion reigned.

Positional Truth or Experiential Truth?

The key to unlocking verse 17 is probably found in the phrase "if anyone is in Christ." We might translate the verse this way: "In light of this [v. 16], whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old condition [standing before God] is finished and gone; the new has come." And what is the new creation? It is our position in Christ as members of God's family.

When 2 Corinthians 5:17 is used to describe one's experience, it is misleading and may easily cause one to exaggerate or lie concerning his or her life. Even if it is true (and I would hope that it is) that many wonderful changes occurred when you trusted Christ as your Savior, honesty demands that you admit that not everything has changed; all things are not new.

Whatever your understanding is of this verse, you can't get away from "old things have passed away" and "all things have become new." Even if you can name a number of sins that no longer dominate you, are there any sins that you still must do battle with? Or have there ever been such sins since your conversion? If so, then it is not fair, honest, or correct to use this verse to describe your Christian experience.

Verse 17 does not apply to the outward life at all, but to the new inward condition that is true of every believer — not just some. In that inward, spiritual realm all things for the true believer are indeed new. We are new creations "in Christ Jesus!" None of the old flesh nature is part of the new. The old has not been simply whitewashed or reformed. The new birth is something brand new, of the Spirit and not of the flesh in any way (note John 1:12–13, 3:3–7; 1 Peter 1:18–19, 1:23–25).

Romans 8:5–9 is a good commentary on this subject when it points out that although believers in Christ may "live according to the flesh," they are not "in" the flesh, but "in" the Spirit. I may observe a fellow believer living a flesh-controlled life, but even while he is doing so, God sees him in Jesus and, therefore, indwelt by His Spirit. This simply reiterates the fact that we dare not "judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (John 7:24; 1 Samuel 16:7).

Further Spiritual Ramifications

Unbelievers are blinded and in darkness; believers are often confused and bewildered. Let's not cooperate with the enemy of our souls by plunging people further into spiritual darkness by the misuse of Scripture. Let's make sure our public pronouncements regarding the Word of God are, in fact, correct. Don't allow what may be a traditional use of Scripture to ever be a substitute for what the Bible actually says and means.

Do Christians go to heaven when they die?

Do Christians go to heaven when they die?

It may surprise some of you to learn that there are Christians who either do not believe we go to heaven when we die, or that it is not that important whether or not we go there. Some even think that "going to heaven when you die" is not a legitimate biblical emphasis. They point out that anticipating heaven is not even discussed in most of the Bible, meaning the Old Testament. We are told that believers back then did not concern themselves with heaven, but were intent on establishing God's kingdom on earth. Therefore, we too should have God's kingdom on earth as our focus today.


Hypocrisy in the Church

Hypocrisy in the Church

Hypocrites, by their very nature, have no place in their lives for privacy with God. Oh, they may delight in privacy with their books, with their sermon building, or with their thoughts as they plan great things for their careers, church or ministry. But: "true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth" (John 4:23–24).

Bringing Hell Out of the Shadows

Bringing Hell Out of the Shadows

Emotionally people struggle with hell being real for good reasons. Loved ones may have already died and there were clear indications they did not know the Lord. Intellectually it gets no better. Many are persuaded that it is inconceivable that a loving God would allow any of His creatures to endure eternal suffering for any sin no matter how gross, nor for any number of sins no matter how many. Both emotionally and intellectually, many reject the reality of hell.

"Touch Not God's Anointed!"

"Touch Not God's Anointed!"

It is not uncommon for some Christian leaders to resort to isolating verses for the purpose of bolstering a view that would be difficult to support otherwise. This is particularly true when an awkward or wrong interpretation of Scripture provides desired comfort and/or protection to a leader. Such is the case when a pastor, evangelist, Bible teacher, missionary, author, or teacher of God's Word uses the statement "touch not God's anointed" to mean no one should question or force accountability upon them because they are specially anointed ones.

The Rise of Spiritual Abuse

The Rise of Spiritual Abuse

Does the ministry of which you are a part have cultic characteristics? What exactly is spiritual abuse? Spiritual abuse is present when there is the misuse of power, position and influence for the personal gain of the leader or leaders of an organization or movement. Of course, no cult or false religion would ever admit to abusing anyone; nor would any non-cultic church, group, or movement. But when it is being practiced, denying its presence doesn't make it go away. Unfortunately, it seems, spiritual abuse is on the rise in this country.