By Paul Pavao in General Articles, Blogging | 27th July 2021
I sent this email today and, boy, did it fire me up and exhort me. May it do the same for you:
I really want to answer your question, and I only see one in your email. "How in Jesus' name do I live holy?!"
I have an answer because I, of course, have faced the same battle you describe. Once you find out that the evangelical version of salvation by faith alone--the "free ticket to heaven" doctrine--is bogus, then what replaces it? Works? In fact, yes, works replace faith alone (James 2:24), but it is critically important not to turn works into law. There is no law that can produce righteousness (Gal. 3:21). We will be judged by our works, but we will never obtain works by the hearing of the law, whether it is the Law of Moses or the law of some denomination or the law we put upon ourselves.
To me, the most comforting verse in the Bible is, "For we, through the Spirit, await the righteousness that comes by faith" (Gal. 5:5).
Once we figure out that the evangelical plan of salvation is bogus, our biggest problem is that we still think God our Father is a God of rules, law, and condemnation. Honestly, we still think God is stupid. We think he is shocked by sin and surprised at human weakness. We think he is appalled that our ways are lower than his and our thoughts lower than his. We think he doesn't realize that we are human and weak.
Jesus is going to save us, and both he and his Father know that we need to be saved! He knows that we are drowning in sin. He knows that we have no self-control. This is why he said that we can do nothing without him (Jn. 15:5). We live "by his life" (Gal. 2:20) and "by his Spirit" (dozens of verses, but Rom. 8:13 is a good one).
If you don't have hopelessness in yourself, you will never have the right kind of trust in God, nor power to walk in the Spirit.
So, first, hopelessness in your flesh. You should not be surprised you are failing because...
By Paul Pavao in General Articles, Blogging | 20th July 2021
More than 1,800 years ago, a Jew told a Christian, "I am aware that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them" (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 10).
Unfortunately, today, a lot of Christians agree with him. Worse, there are teachers who claim Jesus' teaching do not need to be obeyed because they were given while the Old Testament was still in effect. Jesus' own teachings, these absurd teachers say, are to be rejected as "law" because he had not died yet.
Trypho the Jew was referring to Jesus' commands when he mentioned "precepts in the Gospel," but modern Christians often dismiss the commands of the apostles as well, giving themselves license to ignore Jesus and his apostles because "we are under grace."
I could refute that idea by pointing out that the only occurrences of "under grace" in the Bible are in Romans 6:14 and 6:15, where Paul tells us that sin will not have power over us because we are "under grace" and that we should not sin because we are "under grace." But let's skip that and get to the heart of the matter.
Jesus' commands are not easy.
Let's just look at commands that are in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).
"Rejoice when you are persecuted."
"If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other to him."
"Do not resist an evil man."
"Do not commit adultery, nor even look upon a woman for the purpose of lusting."
"Do not bother with oaths; instead, fulfill every word that comes out of your mouth."
"Do not give any thought to tomorrow."
When you look at the commands, it is easy to see pain. It is easy to see hard work, an impossible transformation of our human nature, a self-control beyond the reach of anyone. That's what Trypho the Jew saw.
If you look only at the commands, that is what you will see too. You will see pain.
I prefer to look at the promises.
He who hears my words and does them is like a man who built his house on the ...
By Paul Pavao in General Articles, Blogging | 14th July 2021
I want to create a Bible course on three levels:
For committed disciples who are bearing fruit and already understand the Scriptures.
For the active Christian who needs to understand God's call to discipleship.
For those who need to find out they still need to become Christians.
All three courses will develop from Matthew 16:13-20. Reading and understanding this passage requires looking at passages that will carry the student step by step through all of Scripture.
Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
They said, “Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.” Then he commanded the disciples that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.
The things to notice are:
Jesus really liked what Peter said.
He thought Peter could not have known he was Christ and Son of God without revelation from the Father.
He made some amazing promises.to Peter
And above all, we must notice that:
Jesus is going to build his church on a rock that is mentioned in this passage.
Normally, I would go on to questions that will lead the students to consider the passage for themselves, and as they come up with answers, I will give them more Scripture passages related to their answers. In this way, I hope to begin a never-endin...
By Paul Pavao in General Articles, Blogging | 25th June 2021
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition.
Living by the Spirit rather than living by the flesh is a central theme of the New Testament. Much of Galatians 5 is devoted to the subject, and it could be argued that the whole letter is summed up in "Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh" (Gal. 3:3). In Romans, walking by the Spirit in chapter 8 is the answer to the sin problem in chapter 7 (esp. 8:2-4).
More practically, how to overcome the flesh and its desires is the greatest battle most Christians face. Supposedly, our old man was crucified with him, and the "body of sin" is done away with so that we are "freed from sin" (Rom. 6:6-7). Often, though, the old man seems quite healthy, and the "body of sin" gives us fits!
I have an answer for you.
"Flesh" vs. "Sinful Nature"
The New International Version, and perhaps others, uses "sinful nature" rather than "flesh" in several places in the New Testament. Even where it does not actually use "sinful nature,' such as in Galatians 5, the NIV adds a note saying:
In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit" (Gal. 5:13, footnote).
This translation is a problem on two levels. First, in several verses, it makes no sense. For example, in Romans 8:3, we read that God sent his Son in the likeness of "sinful flesh." If we used "sinful nature" there, we would have "in the likeness of sinful sinful nature." At the end of the same verse, we would have "he condemned sin in the sinful nature."
Second, if we read through Romans 7, we will see that the problem is not that our flesh is sinful nature. Instead, sin itself "produced in me all kinds of coveting" (v. 8). Sin itself "revived" (v.9). Sin itself "deceived me, and through [the commandment] killed me." Paul's conclusion is that "If what I don't desire, that I do, ...
By Paul Pavao in General Articles, Blogging | 15th June 2021
If you are evangelical, this is probably not the plan of salvation you have learned. This is, though, the plan of salvation taught by all churches when the churches were one.
It is somewhat frustrating that the last sentence I wrote has so little impact on evangelicals. The early church fathers have been slandered so much that to say "at one time all the apostles' churches believed this" means very little. Apparently, many of us are able to convince ourselves that all the apostles' churches could have gone astray, and not only astray, but astray into the exact same error! What a triumph for the devil!
Such error might have been possible if the claims of Roman Catholic apologists were true. If there were a pope in the late first and second centuries decreeing doctrine to all the known churches, then it would be easy for all the churches to slip into error. But the bishop of Rome did not have such authority in the first and second centuries. Instead, the bishop and elders of the apostolic churches, all of whom had as their primary task to preserve without change the teachings that had been handed down by the apostles, stayed in fellowship with one another and held each other accountable so that ...
As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. (Irenaeus, c. 185, Against Heresies, Bk. I, ch. 10, par. 2)
If you want to read more about how the early churches "carefully preserve[d]" the teaching of the apostles, see my Christian history web site.
The Biblical and Original Plan of Salvation
1. On the last day, at the final judgment, God will repay everyone based on their works. Those who have done good will receive life, and those who have done evil will be condemned. This did not change when Jesus died because Jesus died for us, not for the judgment nor for our already perfect and merciful Father in heaven....