Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry


faith and works

Jesus Paid It All and the Payment Was Permanent (Part Three)

jesus saves

Perhaps the biggest argument against the Doctrine of Eternal Security is that it somehow becomes “a license to sin.” In other words, one can become saved and then go out in the world and do whatever one chooses with no consequence. After all, one’s sins past, present, and future are all forgiven.  Technically, that is a true statement. Technically a truly saved person, no matter how far they might backslide, is still forgiven and heaven bound.

Sadly and to the discredit of churches today, we do much to foster this skepticism about the Doctrine of Eternal Security. We have pews full of people who only darken the doors of a church for an hour on Sunday morning, then barrel back to the outside world and conduct themselves just like, or worse than, the rest of the world.  This same group of people justifies their behavior by resting on some claim that they are saved, so..”I’m all good, I’m saved and heaven bound. Jesus has forgiven me so it’s cool.” This is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.  Salvation is not about getting a ticket to heaven punched. God truly, deeply loves us and offers us the gift of salvation, but salvation is not about us!

A quick summary is in order here. God was not sitting around in Heaven lonely one day and decided to create humanity to alleviate His loneliness. God is self-existent and self-sufficient and has no need for us whatsoever. God does not save us so that He can fill some empty void in His existence. We were only created for His honor and glory in the first place. In fact, the entire plan of redemption formed before the beginning of time was simply to declare God’s glory to the universe.

The point of this is God does not save us “for” us. He saves us for a purpose and a reason, and the reason is not us.  The most notable Bible passage on salvation based on grace, not works is, of course, Ephesians 2:8,9. Where people go wrong, however, is they stop there.  Because right after God makes it clear through the Apostle Paul that works don’t save us, He goes on to tell they whys of our salvation.

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

That’s just a start. There are numerous passages that teach us the true saving faith will produce fruit(works). These are merely a few.

James 2:17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,  Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,  Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22.23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

1 John 3:6-9 Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

The Apostle Paul answered the question about Eternal Security being a permit to sin very directly in Romans 6:15-23. This question is far from a new one.

Romans 6:15-23 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Clearly, salvation is not a permit to sin at will. God said that in His Word. Also clearly, God has expectations of us once we are saved.

Coming up…Part 4 Rewards for the believer

Faith In Action-Even The Devil Believes in God

faith in action

James 2:19

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.

Read James Chapter 2 here

Earlier, we discussed the rather shocking statement that James made in this letter; that statement was that even devils believe, and tremble.  Now we are going to explore that some more to illustrate the fact that belief, even if based on truth, may not be saving belief.

Devils believe there is one true God; they even believe in the correct God. In Acts 16, beginning in verse 16, we can see the story of the demon possessed woman following Paul and his fellow evangelists, likely Silas, Timothy and Luke. What is key here is the fact that the demon recognized that the God in question was “the most high God.”

Demons even recognized the deity and sonship of Jesus Christ when they encountered him at different times. In the story of the Garasene demoniac in Mark 5:1-10 and Luke 8:26-33, we can clearly see that this demon understood that Jesus was the Son of God.

Not only do demons know God is God, and that Jesus was his son; they also have a clear understanding of Bible doctrines. They even know how scripture says the story will end for them. The demons Jesus cast into the herd of pigs in Matthew Chapter 8 asked Jesus if he had come to “torment us before the time.” They understood, obviously, the Biblical teaching concerning the eventual disposition of Satan and his demon angels.

We can see that devils believe in God, they understand who Jesus Christ is, and even understand Scripture as well as many Christians; we also know that Satan and his demons are certainly not saved(nor can they be, but that is another devotional all together.) What then, can we learn here?

This is merely a reinforcement of the same thing we have learned from James in the last several devotionals. An intellectual knowledge of who God is and even in the correct and only God is not enough. A mental assent to the reality and identity of Jesus Christ is not enough. Even a thorough and complete knowledge of the Word of God and Bible doctrine is not enough.

True faith, that being faith that saves, will always produce a change of heart and a change of character. There will be evidence on display of the transformation that has taken place within us if a transformation actually occurred.

Faith In Action-Showing Partiality Is VERY Serious

faith in action

James 2:8-13

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

Read James Chapter 2 here

James is about to take a serious turn with his dialogue here. He has been talking about the wrongness of partiality towards people using invalid criteria. Now he is going to illustrate precisely just how serious this issue is. We may come back to this passage in more detail in later devotionals, but for now we are going to just look at the basic meaning of what James seems to be teaching us.

James, as usual, just calls it as he sees it; more precisely he calls it like God sees it. Showing partiality to others is more than just bad judgment or an error in our ways. Showing partiality to others is, in fact, sin and transgression. That is serious business.

James takes Jesus’ teaching on the totality of the law and uses it for our illustration. We all know that teaching. We must first love God with our all, then others as we love ourselves. If we do that we will essentially be doing all things God would desire that we do. All other law flows from those two thoughts. If we do those two, the rest will follow naturally. If we do not do those two, then it is not possible for us to do the rest.

James clearly, literally says to be a respecter of persons is transgression. He also points out that adultery and murder is transgression. The final link is pointing out that even one tiny transgression of God’s law makes us guilty of transgressing all; that is very interesting. What is James saying?

Remember that, “All have sinned and come short of the Glory of God?” In the eyes of God, being partial or unfair to others is every bit as serious as committing murder or adultery. That should remove all doubt as to the seriousness of this offense.

Faith In Action-Did You See Who’s Treating You So Badly?

faith in action

James 2:6,7

But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

Read James Chapter 2 here

James gets into some serious irony in this section. Remember, he had just discussed the wrongness of their preferential treatment of rich men who would enter their assembly. Now he points out that not only is that treatment wrong, but it’s really quite absurd. If we can take some literary liberties with the passage, what James was really saying might go something like this: “Hey, the very people you are falling all over in church are the same people making your lives miserable outside in the real world..what gives?

There was nothing new in the mistreatment of poor Jews by rich Jews in Israel; it was common even back in the days of the Prophets. Good examples can be read in Micah 2:2 and Zechariah 7:10. Paul teaches us that this oppression of the poor by the rich continues right into the New Testament in Hebrews 10:32-34.

So, the scattered believers were still being oppressed by the wealthy, just as had been true for centuries already. Not only were they being oppressed, but the rich were taking advantage of the legal system to harass and oppress them further! These men were using legal means to steal even more or their resources.  Finally, these men were blaspeming the Holy name of Jesus Himself. They may have been literally committing blaspemy, or they may have been simply committing it by the things they were saying and doing against His followers; it’s the same thing after all, isn’t it?

Here is a parting thought for this section of this Chapter. There is the possibility that James in this particular passage may have been speaking to middle class type believers rather than the poor ones. Later in his epistle he gives some warnings to rich men themselves. He may have been speaking to people who not only had suffered oppression at the hands of those with more resources than them, but who also had sufficient resources to do the same to those below them in the stations of life. They may have been guilty of oppressing the poor while they were simultaneously being oppressed by the rich.

In our world today, most of us would fit this category. Few of us are rich, but few of us are also truly poverty stricken; most of us are in that middle area where some have more than us, and we have more than some. How do we act?

Faith In Action-God Loves the Poor as Much as the Rich

faith in action

James 2:5-7

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

Read James Chapter 2 here

James has a bit to say about rich people and poor people. As we pointed out earlier, the scattered believers James was writing to were most likely all suffering poverty. Many would have been poor to start with, and many more would have been made poor as a result of their conversion to Christianity. In many cases they would have been driven from jobs and homes, and then likely unable to find work in the places they finally settled.

First of all, let’s clear up any thoughts that James was condemning the simple fact of possessing wealth. James is not doing that, and neither was God. We need only to look at such examples as Job or Abraham to see that God often actually blesses His followers with great wealth.

Nor was James saying the poor people are automatically righteous and rich people automatically unrighteous. James was not saying the poor people have some special merit with God, or are loved more by Him than rich people.

On the other hand, The Father in heaven and Jesus Himself while here on this earth clearly have a special place in their hearts for the poor and the oppressed. And it certainly seems true that the poor and downtrodden have far greater willingness to give their lives to God than those who are wealthy and powerful.

Isn’t this really about attitude? James is not condemning the fact of wealth, but the attitude of wealth. Remember the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27? It was not his riches which kept him from Jesus, but his attitude towards his money. Remember 1 Timothy 6:10? It is not money per se, but the love of it which causes evil.

Another issue is that those who have nothing but poverty in this life can more easily respond to the promise of riches in the life after, while those with great riches on earth may struggle to see that something could actually be better than what they have here.

Remember, we have choices. We can be poor in this life and rich in the next. We can be rich in this one and poor in the next. We can be both poor in this one and poor in the next. We might even be rich both now and in eternity. It’s all about choices, and it’s all about what choice we make about what we will do with Jesus Christ.

Faith In Action-Jesus Was Not Partial; Neither Should We Be

faith in action

James 2:1

My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

We often throw the word, “Christlike,” around fairly casually. Well, here is an instance of a situation where we have an opportunity to behave exactly as our Lord did when he was here on this Earth.

It may be important to cover just a little background here before moving on. It was common to the Jewish culture of the day to covet the recognition of one’s peers, and to even vie and compete for it. It seems likely that James was addressing this concern and instructing the scattered believers he was writing to, to not become guilty of this offense.

So, the question arises; on what basis was James coming to the conclusion that partiality was wrong? Well, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jame is simply teaching us to act like Christ!

Jesus certainly did not respect persons. A simple look at the disciples would reveal that to us. We have simple fishermen, men with no credentials whatsoever: Peter, John, James and Andrew. Of course we have the hot headed, impulsive Peter himself. We certainly cannot forget Matthew the tax collector. The other Simon, Simon the Zealot was possibly a revolutionary. Jesus certainly did not choose those who would take His church into the world based any criteria we would use.

Jesus Himself was despised and rejected. He had no home or place to lay his head. He grew up in the despised town of Nazareth, from which it was said nothing good could come. He ultimately died the death that only the worst of criminals died. His outward appearance and background caused Him to be rejected by the powers of His day, yet He was actually God in the flesh!

In addition to all of this, we know that Jesus was repeatedly rebuked for the kind of company He kept. The Pharisees despised Him for associating with publicans and sinners. He offered forgiveness to the woman caught in the act of adultery. He willingly talked with the woman at the well even though she was three times rejectable; she was a sinner, a woman and a samaritan!

Do we make any real claim on being Christlike? If we do, then we simply cannot show partiality to others based on any criteria of our own, but only that used by our Lord Jesus Christ. That criteria was that there WAS no criteria.

Faith In Action-Looking In the Mirror

faith in action

James 1:23,24

For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.

 Read James Chapter 1 here

Why do we look in a mirror? Usually to check and see if we look okay, to see if all is in order with the way that we look. Don’t we also do more than just look? If we look into that mirror and find things which are wrong, we normally take action to repair them, correct?

If a person looked into a mirror and saw that they were just totally messed up and just said, “okay, cool” and walked away then what was the point of even looking in the first place?

God’s Word is like that. When we read it, it becomes our mirror to show us if we are in order or if we are in disarray. It provides us with a reflection of our conduct and if our conduct is what God would like to see in our lives. We learn this clearly in Galatians 3:24. The Law never saves us; it just teaches us where we are failing. The Law is our mirror.

If all we do is look in a mirror, see what is wrong and walk away what have we gained? All we have gained is knowledge. “Well, I know my hair is a mess..great!” That’s absurd, really. We would never do that.

Why then, would we do that in response to God’s word? That is the lesson James is teaching us here. Just like looking in a real mirror, looking the the mirror of God’s Word should cause us to change. We should walk away from it prepared to do something, not just see that something is wrong.

Faith In Action-The Path of Sin

faith in action

James 1:14,15

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

 Whose problem is sin? Well, it’s ours. Note what James says…our own lust. Lust here is not referring to sexual lust necessarily, just all the things we desire for. God did, in fact, create us all to seek certain things. Sexual desire is one of  those things. God created men to seek certain things: success, to be good at what we do. Inside of all of us are things God planted so we could use them in attaining His purposes. The fact that they exist is not wrong. The wrongness comes in our application of them.

So, God does not tempt us with sin. Even though Satan tempts us, he does not cause it, either. He does use our own desires, which we all have, to entice us to use them wrongly and sinfully. That is the enticement part, we are enticed to take our God given desires and point them the wrong way.

Having a desire, and even being enticed to head the wrong way, is not wrong necessarily either. Anybody reading not been tempted to sin or do wrong? I didn’t think so! So, what happens? Lust conceives; that is we come to some point where we think it is okay. And once the sin has conceived, that same thing happens with any conception: a birth. In this case, a sin is born.

Sadly, sin has consequences. When sin is finished, it brings forth death. One form is certainly physical death; sin is what brought that into the world and the death rate remains 100%. It also brought spiritual death, in the form of eternal separation from God.

But, God loves us. We will all physically die, but we need not all eternally die.

Faith In Action-God Does NOT Tempt Us With Sin

faith in action

James 1:13

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Now James moves on to a different use of the word which was translated temptation. Here, James IS referring to temptation to sin; he is no longer discussing the tests and trials of life. James has made a transition from temptation, or trials, as a noun to the use of temptations, or sin, as a verb. He is talking about the act of sin.

The discussion of the origin of sin and evil in the world could be, and has been, written about in volumes. We aren’t going that deep here.

Clearly God allows and even causes things to be placed into our lives that will test and grow our faith; we have talked about that up to this point. This is not true of temptation to sin. God Himself cannot, of course violate His own Law; nor can He even entertain the thought of doing something out of His nature. In the same vein, God will never place temptations to sin and perform evil into our paths as a way to test and refine us. That is what we are being taught here.

Although God did not create, and is not responsible for sin, He did create us with free will. It did not take man long to exercise his free will and blow it. Even then, nobody wanted to assume responsibility for what they had done. Eve blamed the serpent; Adam blamed Eve and Adam even blamed God.

James is simply teaching us that our sin, and our actions, are our responsibility. Jesus saves us,and forgives us, but we are responsible for the things we do.

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