Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Five C’s in Salvation

There is no one word adequate to fully explain the plan of salvation.  The Scriptures mention so many different things on both God’s part and man’s part that together are involved in our salvation.  Certainly, we cannot be saved without God’s grace and our faith (Ephesians 2:8).  Nor could there be salvation without the sacrifice of Christ.  He died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3).  Since men have to be knowledgeable of that fact in order to be saved, it is said that we are saved by the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-2) and that the implanted word is able to save (James 1:21).

It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (that is, foolish in the minds of unbelievers) to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21).  We cannot save ourselves.  We must call upon the Lord (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13).  Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead (James 2:17).  We must be obedient and keep the commandments of the Lord (Revelation 22:14).  We are saved by baptism (1 Peter 3:21).  We are saved by hope (Romans 8:24).  We are saved by faithfully enduring to the end (Matthew 24:13, Revelation 2:10).  Permit me to list five Cs in this great plan of salvation.

CONVICTED — Unless men repent, they will perish (Luke 13:3, 5) and before anyone repents of their sins, they have to be brought to a sense of guilt and shame.  It is necessary for them to be made aware that they are sinners.  An interesting event in the life of Christ is recorded in John 8:3-11 when the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery, and testing Him they asked Him what He had to say about punishment for her.  Rather than an abrupt oral response, He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they continued asking, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first,” and again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  We are not told what He wrote, but whatever He wrote perhaps made them aware that He knew of their sins, or at least it gave them a sense of their own guilt and “being convicted by their own conscience,” they walked away leaving Him there with the woman.  People need to be convicted.  It will cause some to repent.

CONVINCED — In the Scriptures the same Greek word “elegcho” can be translated as “convicted” or “convinced.”  For example, in the 1769 King James Version  in Titus 1:9, “elegcho” is translated as “convince.”  In the New King James Version in the same passage the word is translated as “convict.”  In our English vocabulary, we may tend to think of somewhat different shades of meaning in the two words.  We may think of “convict” as indicating guilt and “convince” more in the thought of persuading or bringing to full belief.  In reality, not only do men need to be convicted of their sins, they need to be convinced of the truthfulness of the Bible and of their need for salvation.

CONVERTED– “Unless  you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).  “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19).  Both the word “repentance” and the word “conversion” indicate turning around, a change in behavior, changing from old habits and conduct to a new and better manner of life.  “Repent, and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

CONFORMED — Not to this world (Romans 12:2) but conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  Living a Christian life involves patterning our lives after Christ and striving to grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).  Our goal should be that which is stated in an old spiritual song, “More like the Master I would ever be.”  We cannot expect Him to be our Savior unless we let Him be the Lord of our lives.

CONFIRMED — I use this word as it is used in the Scriptures, meaning “made firm” or “strengthened” and “made strong.”  Christ can strengthen or confirm us to the end (1 Corinthians 1:8).  Paul and his companions in their travels strengthened the disciples (Acts 14:22, 15:32, 15:41 — In all three of these passages in Acts the 1769 King James Version uses “confirmed” or “confirming.”).  Likewise, today brethren need to encourage, edify, exhort, and strengthen one another.  That is one of the very purposes of our assembling.  We need nourishment and instruction from the word of God and the fellowship of brethren of like precious faith.

Thomas D. Dennis
~ 207 W. Hunter Dr., Nixa, MO  65714-8432

Under the Sun

Solomon began his reign well.  When God granted him any request, Solomon asked for wisdom and was given riches, peace, and length of days to boot.  He realized his father’s vision by building God’s house in Jerusalem.  He expanded Israel’s territory to its farthest extent and accumulated great wealth for God’s people.  However, the many wives and concubines he collected for both political and pleasurable ends influenced Solomon’s apostasy.  Ecclesiastes briefly chronicles his life apart from God.

Solomon states his purpose in 1:3, “What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?”  Profit or gain is generally a business term that describes what is left over when all the expenses are paid.  In Ecclesiastes, it expresses Solomon’s search for meaning, value, or purpose in human existence.  “Under the sun” tells us that Solomon searched for these things without involving God.  Solomon puts his earlier faith as well as his father’s faith to the test.  Is life worth living without God?  Can man find happiness or contentment in the world apart from a God worldview?

His search starts in the natural realm with earth, water, air, and fire (1:4-7).  All he finds is monotonous uniformity: everything does the same thing year after year.    Sight and sound cannot satisfy the senses (1:8).    The natural realm always works but never progresses.   Solomon next turns to human history only to find it provides nothing new (1:9-11).  Without God, human history is a closed, cyclical system.  What is past is present and what is present is future and nobody sees it because nobody cares.  Dissatisfied, Solomon turns to philosophy:  perhaps human wisdom can discover something better (1:12-18).  The results disappoint him.  Life is like the steam in this morning’s shower.   What is crooked cannot be straightened.   The more you know, the more you ache.

With one eye toward wisdom, Solomon turns the other eye toward hedonism, materialism, and work (1:17, 2:1-9).  Maybe entertainment or wealth or homes or gardens or a harem fulfills man’s deepest felt needs.  Perhaps immersing oneself in work brings about contentment.  Surprisingly, Solomon finds a sense of satisfaction:  “my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor” (2:10).  The fulfillment was fleeting.  Why?  Death loomed like a dark specter.  Wisdom is obviously better than folly, but the wise man dies like the fool (2:14-15).  The riches accumulated through knowledge and wisdom and skill lose their value because they must be left behind to someone who did not work to earn them.  These realizations drive Solomon to despair.  He hated life and his labor (2:17-18).

Thankfully, a greater light shines into this bleak reality.  Solomon concludes the satisfaction he found in labor was a gift from God (compare 2:10 with 2:24).  Though he diligently sought for contentment “under the sun,” he realized his solution was above:  “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” (NASB, Ecclesiastes 2:25).  To the one who fears God (the righteous), God bestows wisdom, knowledge, and joy.   Faith in God gives life the meaning, purpose, and value Solomon sought but could not find below the heavens.  The one who does not fear God (the sinner, cf. 8:13) finds futility without happiness (2:26).

As Solomon discovered, man cannot straighten what God makes crooked (1:15 cf. w/7:13).  God set the natural realm in motion and subjected this realm to futility (3:1-8).  God does not intend for humanity to find answers “under the sun.”  He intends the silence to compel humanity to “grope for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27).  What drives our search for meaning is the eternity God places in our hearts (3:11).    We sense we are eternal beings.   Eternity groans within us, stirring a restlessness settled by God alone.

As he draws chapter three’s “above the sun” commentary to a close, Solomon says:

I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him (3:14).

Humanity stands powerless before the cycles God set in motion.  We can manipulate the matter God creates, but we can neither create nor destroy it.  We can look deeply into the natural realm around us, but we cannot discover what God has done from beginning to end (3:11).   Once again, Solomon says, we see God’s purpose:  “God has so worked that men should fear Him.”  God sets humanity in the midst of an unfathomable universe in order to drive us to our knees.

Even with a God worldview, there are anomalies that concern the thinking, compassionate person.  “Furthermore, I have seen under the sun that in the place of justice there is wickedness and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness.”  A corrupt justice system that fails to punish wickedness is troublesome.  When justice falters, where is the deterrent for evil?  Solomon’s solution lies with God:  “I said to myself, ‘God will judge both the righteous man and the wicked man,’ for a time for every matter and for every deed is there.”  When humanity fails to carry out what is right within God’s structure, judgment awaits.  Evil will not go unpunished.

Though we live on the “other side of the cross,” we can glean much truth from the observations of Solomon.  We live in an era ruled by “-isms”:  naturalism, humanism, hedonism, materialism, etc.  Ecclesiastes shows us that all of these “-isms” amount to nothing.   They fail to provide genuine peace and contentment.  Faithful obedience, fear, and a final judgment continue to give meaning to our lives.  We not only relate to the satisfaction Solomon found in labor, but also we have a promise of eternal value in Christ:  “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Colossians 3:23-24).  Finally, death remains humanity’s most troublesome event, but in Christ the fear of death is swallowed up in the glorious victory of the resurrection.      Please heed the words of an old man wizened by experience:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (12:13-14).

Wade Stanley
~ 11709 E. 77th Terr., Raytown, MO  64138-2534

You Remind Me Of…

Parents thrill when someone comments that one of their children reminds them of the parent or is the “spitting image” of them.  Sometimes it’s based on looks; other times it’s mannerisms.  But seeing some resemblance is usually a thrilling occurrence.

For centuries, theologians have tried to grasp the ramifications of passages from Genesis in which mankind is said to have been created in the “image of God.”  Moses alludes to this several times in Genesis.  It is given as the grounds for punishing murder in Genesis 9:6.  It is also a recurring theme in the New Testament letters.

This raises an interesting question: Is this a contradiction to Exodus 20:4 where images are forbidden?  Israel was forbidden to create images, certainly for worship (Exodus 20:4), yet, perhaps ironically, scripture teaches that there is an image of God, and God made it, and it is you and me.

When the creation story was told, God created everything by SPEAKING it into existence (“and God said”), but when God created man He did more.  God formed and breathed into this special creature and made it in His own image.  Man was different.  Man was special in how he was created and in the eyes of God from the very beginning.

Evolutionists consider man organized dirt; God considers man to be in His image.  Evolution not only lowers man’s view of God (by taking God out of creation), but it also lowers man’s view of man (by claiming man is just another animal).  If we are only evolved forms of dirt, then we really are no better than any other form of life: we are neither eternal nor accountable, but “being in His image” we were created both eternal and accountable.

Being created in the image of God is an amazing part of God’s plan.  It is what gives us our innate worth.  Genesis 1 initiates this crucial truth: God considers us of such value that He seeks to redeem us all.

Value and worth come from what stands behind and within an object, and God is both behind us and within us.  He stands behind us as our creator and within us as our guiding light.  Value is also determined and shown by what one is willing to pay for a thing. And for us God cherishes us so much that He paid the ultimate, “He gave His only begotten son” (John 3:16).  That ultimate price is how valuable God considers us to be.

However, being in His image also carries with it accountability and responsibility.  Just like we are accountable to honor our physical families and their good name, we have a responsibility to honor our heavenly Father, His Word and His good name.  Numerous times Paul admonishes us toward conduct that honors and does not blaspheme the name or word of God (Romans 2:24, 1 Timothy 6:1, Titus 2:5).  These calls point out a great responsibility we have to God.

But what did or does sin do to this image?  God, and therefore His image, is righteous, holy, and sinless.  Therefore, did Adam and Eve lose the image of God they were created in when they sinned?  Did they stop being in the image of God?

When we sin, we are certainly tarnished morally, and our holiness is marred (Romans 3:10-18; 8:5-8).  Scripture, however, does speak of man after the fall as still bearing the image or likeness of God (i.e. Genesis 9:6; James 3:9).  It would appear therefore that while sin tarnishes and defaces the image of God in us, there are still aspects of our being in His image. Sin mars that image, but it does not remove or destroy it completely.

Then evidently the image does not consist only in the qualities of moral purity. In what other ways do we reflect God’s image?  Well, certainly our reasoning power, creativity, ability to use language, ability to make moral judgments and choices, and above all, our capacity to worship distinguish us from the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 1:27-30) and make us like God in these capacities.  None other of the creation have these capabilities as we do.

Are we in His image physically as well? An objection to this is that God is Spirit and therefore has no physical body: It is true that God is Spirit, but Psalm 94:9 asks, Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?”  God may not have literal ears or eyes, as our physical bodies do, but our ears and eyes are still in the image of His ability to hear and see.  Our hearts are in His image as we love and serve mankind.  Our longings are in His image as we yearn for spiritual fellowship and heavenly eternity.

Having been created in His image also places us as His earthly representative.  Paul calls us ambassadors for Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:20.  Sometimes it is hard to imagine being ambassadors in His image when we act so contrary to His will, but it doesn’t change creation nor God’s desire for us.  And while being created in His image carries great responsibility, it also carries even greater comfort and moral inspiration.

We are made to belong to Him.  Our purpose in life is not to find ourselves, but to find Him.  He is not lost; it is sinful man who is lost.  When we read Luke 15, we need to remember we are not the Father, but the lost son.  How fortunate we are to have been created for His glory.

God knows our potential. He knows what we can and need to be.  When He created us in His image, He gave us all we need to accomplish what He seeks of us.  Let us live worthy of our creation and His image.  Let our image remind the world of Him.

John Lee
~ 13210 S. Harris Rd., Greenwood, MO  64034-9730