Frequently Asked Questions
Does God choose some to go to heaven and some to go to hell?
Concerning God choosing some to salvation and some to damnation is a faulty view of Predestination. The logical progression (not a chronological one) of our election goes like this:
- God determines to create humans according to His image.
- God knows that when free will is given, humans will reject Him and fall into sin.
- God's justice says that they must be punished eternally because they sinned against an eternal being.
- God demonstrates mercy instead and devises a plan to redeem a part of the fallen humanity.
- God chooses to save some and not all purely based on His own pleasure.
- God demonstrates His justice to the ones who get what they deserve (punishment for sins), and mercy to those who don't deserve what they get (grace and eternal life).
- The default mode is damnation. This is what every human being DESERVES. However, God chooses to show mercy and grace to some.
The obvious question at this point in the mind of a human being is: How can God be fair? Why does He show favoritism to some and not to all? The answers to these questions have already been addressed in points 5-7. But let me elaborate. The Bible sees us not as individuals, but as parts of a whole. Adam and Eve were not only our representatives who made the decision for us, but we were "in" Adam and Eve when they sinned against God. Regardless of whether we believe this or not, it is what God has revealed about our corporate humanity. This becomes a wonderful reality when we are united with Christ and become one with Him through faith!
As sinners, partaking in Adam's fall, we deserve condemnation and judgment. This is what is rightfully ours. Hell is what we have wrought for ourselves. Many people refuse to accept this reality about our predicament. Many think that we deserve better. Although they instinctively know that they are sinners, they want to believe they are not going to hell. How many people have you met who are sure that they are going to hell? I haven't yet met one person who genuinely believes this. And yet, their unbelieving lifestyle clearly shows that hell is where they are headed. God doesn't choose anyone to go to hell, they go there on their own. God does not force anyone to deny Him, to reject Him, or to blaspheme His Holy name; they simply do that on their own volition.
Given this predicament, God offers eternal life freely to whoever would come to Christ by faith. In so doing, people become forgiven and now are transformed to live for God and for His glory out of their own volition. Because of the wonderful gift of eternal life, peace with God, and reward for faithfulness, believers have plenty of motivation to live for God. But the greatest motivation of all is the fact that we are invited to God's eternal family. This reality should change anyone's lifestyle. This fact alone should transform the vile into virtuous. This great truth and supernatural transformation is what gives us our true identity.
God is a loving God. But He is also just. This duality of his character is perfectly demonstrated on the cross. God's justice is demonstrated in His outpouring wrath upon sin as Christ bore our sins on the cross. But His love is demonstrated in Christ's loving words, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." There is forgiveness. Christ's finished work on the cross purchases our salvation. His righteousness is imputed to us and we are no longer deemed sinners in the eyes of God, but saints. For the Scripture says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). This passage clearly shows that God does not force anyone to go to hell. Rather God is loving and merciful.
I've gone further than I should have. But I wanted to elaborate to you, not only the mechanics of predestination, but its ramification upon our belief and lifestyle. It is not enough for us to simply quote Scripture or wax eloquent with theology. If our life does not reflect what we claim we believe, we may be mere counterfeits.
How does the Bible explain Predestination and Free Will?
Concerning Predestination (a.k.a., God's sovereign election in salvation) and free will (our inhibited volition, not our capability to choose or not to choose--I'll explain this in detail later), great minds in the Church have wrestled for centuries with this wonderful, yet difficult doctrine. I must suggest that even if we don't fully comprehend the doctrine we must apprehend it because it is clearly taught in Scripture. For example:
- In Acts 13:48 we find "and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed" and not "and as many had believed, they were appointed to eternal life." Thus, any doctrinal system that wants to claim that our choice (aided by prevenient grace) is prior to God's election is wrong.
- Let's consider Romans 9:11, "for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God's purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls..." This passage quite clearly and cogently elaborates how God's sovereign choice in election stands regardless of our own personal efforts.
- To add one more passage to Scripture, in Ephesians 1:4, God "...chose us in Him before the foundation of the world..."; Ephesians 1:5 "He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will"; Ephesians 1:11 "...also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose..." It is clear that God's sovereign choice in election stands.
The problem that we encounter may not be the fact that God is sovereign in His election, but how that works out with our understanding of "choice."
The common misunderstanding between "choice" and "will" must first be clarified. We have free will. That is, no one is twisting our arms to adversely exercise our volition against our will. When I sin, I do it because "I" want to and not because the "devil made me do it" or because my circumstances made me do it. It was a deliberate choice of my own and no one else forced me to make the choice. This is technically what we mean by "free will."
Free choice, however, is entirely a different matter. When it relates to salvation, (and by the way, the doctrine of predestination ONLY relates to salvation and not to other aspects of life) we are saying that we have the ability to "choose God" or "not to choose God" without coercion, hindrance or influence in any shape or form. This was only true once in human history, when the first man and woman were in a state of innocence and neutrality of moral inclinations.
After the fall, all of humanity was bent toward sin and we are running away from God and not running toward God trying to find Him. Remember how Adam and Eve "hid themselves" after they realized their sin (Genesis 3:8) Therefore, to say that the natural man, sinful as he is, somehow has the ability to choose God is a tragic mistake. Rather, the Bible teaches us the exact opposite.
For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:22-23)
So, it takes God's wonderful grace to grant salvation to sinful man, and this is done by God's sovereign election (in other words, God chooses whomever based on His good pleasure and not based on anything we do). When God chooses, we also choose Him as a response to His first choosing us. He changes our hearts so that we can respond with gratitude and wholeheartedly receive His gift of eternal life. God frees our will so that we would desire God and that we would choose God! This is a by-product of the Holy Spirit's quickening work in the heart of the sinner and not by any personal decision of the individual alone.
In conclusion, I would like to tell a couple of stories to teach this wonderful doctrine of God's predestination versus man's choice and I pray that these stories would make my explanation clear.
I went to a movie theatre where the restrooms were upstairs. As I was walking up the stairs, I noticed two large flowerpots with two small trees that had inter-meshing branches and leaves. When I got up the stairs and looked down, I saw one green blob, but when I came down I saw two flower pots. From our perspective, it seems God's choice and our choice is two completely separate things. But from God's perspective our choice in salvation is bound up in His perfect will. Just as when we look up from the bottom of a forest and see thousands of large tree trunks extending toward the heavens, but when we fly over the forest in an airplane, we see one huge green carpet, from God's vantage point, God sees only one sovereign will--His! Isn't it wonderful to know that God's choice will never be thwarted? The doctrine of predestination, when understood properly brings tremendous security in a hostile world.
I will tell another similar story. I used to live in a town called Gardena. As you enter into the town from neighboring towns, you would find a big sign that reads, "Welcome to Gardena." But as you are leaving Gardena on the other side of that same sign would be the words, "Thanks for visiting, see you soon!" In the same way, from this side of eternity we see a sign that says, "If anyone would come and believe in Christ Jesus, he shall have eternal life." But as we enter the gates of heaven, the sign will read, "Predestined from the foundations of the world!" Just like the two sides of the same coin will have two completely different images, but would be essential in the make up of the coin, God's purpose in our salvation INCLUDES our choice WITHIN God's sovereign parameters.
I pray that my feeble attempt to explain this wonderful but difficult doctrine will only be superceded by the Holy Spirit's work of His divine teaching as the Lord Jesus Himself said, "He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you" (John 14:26).
Does God always answer prayer, especially prayer for someone to be saved?
It is God's will that sinners be saved. As I've quoted 2 Peter 3:9, God desires for sinners to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Prayer is a channel of living trust between the believer and God. God often reveals His will through the prayer life of the believer. When we pray according to His will (by the way, this is the only kind of prayer that God answers positively), then we get to experience the power of God at work in our lives. Consequently, our faith increases and we trust in God more. God is glorified and we are then satisfied.
The fact that we have the continual desire to pray for someone's salvation is clear evidence that God's will is at work in that person's life and in yours. We don't know God's timing. We don't know when God will do the work of salvation and we don't know how. We don't know through whom He will work His plan. But we rest asure in the fact that God is at work when we pray. Because it is His will that we pray (1 Thes. 5:17).
Does God answer prayer? Always! The answers are "Yes," "No" or "Wait, not yet." The answer can be "no" at times when our requests and petitions are not according to His will (e.g., when we pray that God would bless a marriage with an unbeliever, or when we ask that God would grant us lots of money for our security and pleasure). Sometimes, God has the most perfect timing and that may mean that we need to "wait" and be patient with the Lord's timetable. We are terribly nearsighted, but God sees all things and in His infinite wisdom, God always chooses the best timing to implement His perfect will.
What is the tithe? Do I tithe from the gross or the net income?
The tithe, or literally, "tenth" is a biblical principle of stewardship that arose from Genesis when Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to Melchizedek. Later, God instituted the tithe as stewardship for His people Israel who were peculiar in all their practices including their financial practices. The Israelites were to set an example among the nations of how people should live by faith in God. One of the things God required was not only the tithe, but the sacrifice of the very best offering. For example, God demanded that the firstfruits of all the crops were to be dedicated to Him. Also, the firstborn lambs, unblemished were to be sacrificed. Do you see the reason for God's demands? God is eternal and is Spirit. He doesn't need our material goods. He owns everything. So, what He is trying to do is to test our faith and to instill faithfulness into the hearts of His worshippers. Oh, by the way, during Jesus' days, a good Jew would give 23% of all his earnings to the Lord and not simply the 10%! There was the Regular Tithe, the Temple Tax, and a tithe once every three years. So it adds up to be 23% (rounded down of course).
However, in the New Testament, the principle for giving is based on Lordship and Biblical Stewardship. We Christians recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord, which means that He is the owner of everything including the very breath that we breathe. We know instinctively that we come into this world with nothing and leave everything behind. The resources we have on earth are not ours but God's. He entrusts us to manage His riches so that we may have eternal riches in heaven--which is true wealth indeed. Being good stewards of the Lord, we must not ask, "How much of my money am I going to give to God," but rather, "How much of God's money am I going to spend on myself?" It is a totally different perspective of ownership. Do you see how unbelievers cannot maintain this biblical perspective? Only believers can live in the light of this kind of stewardship.
More practically, I would like to offer some specific answers to your questions. I cannot dogmatically say, "You must give 10% of your gross" because the New Testament principle is not like that. However, My family and I practice giving to the Lord from the gross and not from the net. I don't want to be nit-picky about giving to the Lord. He loves a cheerful giver and I don't want to be cheap toward Him. After all, He graciously and lavishly pours out His blessings on me. So, for me, 10% of my gross is the place I BEGIN. I believe this is where all God's people should begin. Then, as the Lord leads you to give more, and as you are able, you should. The Lord Himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." And this is so true because the more I give, I become a generous person, thereby reflecting the generous character of God. The more I hoard for myself, I become a stingy, cheap, calculating person. And I don't want finances, or anything else for that matter, to come between me and my relationship with God.
Again, giving to the Lord should not be a mechanical thing (where you HAVE to give a certain sum), but a joyful, spontaneous, and yet, thoughtful and conviction-based act of love and gratitude towards one who did not even spare His own Son!
In conclusion, start with 10% from your gross and ask God to give you a heart of thanksgiving and contentment so that you will bless God's church and others through your faithful stewardship and joyful giving.
What does the Bible say regarding abortion for a woman who is impregnated through rape?
Regarding abortion, Christians unanimously agree that the life of the unborn child, no matter how the child is conceived, is created in the image of God. Therefore, since the baby in the womb is a person, we have no right to kill that life. Rape is a horrible crime, but so is murdering an innocent child. You don't solve an evil deed with another evil deed. For the believer, who understands the sanctity of life, we must compassionately argue for natural birth of that child and adoption, but never sanctioning abortion. This is a very emotionally charged issue and deserves much sensitivity. But, I believe the truth of God's Word is very clear about what God thinks of an unborn child-that the child deserves the same equal treatment as grown up human persons (Ex. 21:22-25).
What is the biblical view of the death penalty?
The death penalty has become a controversial issue in recent days for the church, but historically, this was not the case. For most people throughout human history, punishing murderers through the death penalty was perceived as common sense. For believers, the Scriptures strongly support the sanctity of human life that to take a person's life with malice and aforethought is viewed as the most heinous of all crimes perpetrated against another human being, who is created in the image of God.
The Bible is replete with passages regarding the death penalty, which, surprisingly enough, was given before the 10 commandments and the Mosaic Law at Mount Sinai, around 1445 B.C. We find in Genesis 9:6 "Whoever sheds man' s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man." So God's divine standard for retribution and justice is very clear. Later, at Sinai, God gives further provision for capital punishment in Exodus 21:12 "He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death." Also, in Exodus 21:22-25, God demands that the unintentional life-taking, which was usually not a capital offense, when it comes to a pregnant woman and an unborn child involved, clearly must be punished by death.
In the New Testament, we see God's design for the establishment of human government. In 1 Peter 2:14, the Scriptures teach that government was established for the purpose of "punishment of evil doers and the praise of those who do right." So it is the government's job to carry out the laws of the land and in a government like ours (a constitutional republic with democratic voting process) we uphold the death penalties, which are allowed, by the law of the land.
God's character does not change, nor does His moral standards. What was true about His moral laws in the Old Testament is still true today in the New Testament age. So I believe that it is consistent with God's demand for justice and the view on the sanctity of life that the death penalty is consistent with the Christian moral worldview.
Can a believer ever lose his salvation?
The Lord's words in John 10 certainly makes a water-tight case for the security of the believer's salvation. If God saves us, who can damn us? If God is for us who can be against us? Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:31-39). Did the Word of God say, "something can separate us..." or " if you do such and such, you can lose your salvation?" No, I think the burden of proof is on the person who believes such unscriptural teaching.
To be sure, we don't know who is saved and who is not. This is not in our position to judge. We can only judge the fruits. The Lord said, "you shall know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:21). We can tell something about the genuineness of faith or the lack thereof by someone's lifestyle. We can tell something about genuine salvation by obedient living. But we cannot know another person's true spiritual condition. However, God knows. So, the doctrine of the assurance of salvation is a wonderful blessing to those who are walking an obedient walk. It is exhilarating to know that you are in the center of God's will and not have to fear or doubt whether you are saved.
So, for a genuine believer to lose his salvation is oxymoronic. There is no "loss" of salvation. One is wheat or chaff, sheep or goat. It may sometimes be unclear who's who but to the Lord it is absolutely clear. So, let's stop this unbiblical talk about "losing" salvation, rather let's emphasize the obedient walk of a believer. Genuine believers want to live an obedient life. He does not try to get as close to sin as possible, but try to stay far away from sin.
Can a believer trust that God is good in the midst of terrible suffering?
It is always difficult to discuss the topic of suffering in theoretical terms, especially to a person who has gone through or is currently going through much suffering. It is even more difficult to point out errors in such a person's unbiblical conclusions because to do so may communicate lack of sensitivity. But since this is an honest question, I am obligated as a pastor and teacher to give an honest answer.
First, I think it is safe to say that no human being, next to Christ, has experienced more suffering than Job. You will note that in Job 2:10 itsays, "In all this Job did not sin with his lips." Mind you, this verse appears AFTER God had allowed Satan to strike Job with destruction of all his property, death of all his children and to top it off, with "boils" all over his body.
Secondly, Job did not sin but waited on God. Job had a lot of questions though, as many people going through perplexing circumstances often have. Why me Lord? Why am I suffering? What have I done to deserve this? Why is life so unfair to me? Why are You treating me like this? These are the kinds of questions that Job asked God. Yet, Job never accused God for doing anything evil and malicious. This is quite remarkable reaction from a human being. Job was a remarkable man. More remarkable was the way God dealt with Job. In His infinite wisdom and power, God never answered any one of Job's questions, but asked a series of questions about cosmology, meteorology, oceanography, astronomy and zoology. Job could not answer a single question. The implied meaning is clear. If Job could not understand the mysteries behind things that are visible in the created order, how can he ever understand the infinite wisdom and the will of God in the eternal dimensions? Therefore, the implied wisdom in this story is that it is not in the place of the believer to comprehend the mysteries of life, but to trust God for His faithfulness and His benevolence, for God does have reasons why such things happen to "good" people. Yes, even in the midst of suffering! , God's grace is truly amazing even in the most confusing and difficult circumstances. Even when we are wrong and draw erroneous conclusions about God and His work in our lives, He does not abandon His children, "but works all things for the good for those who love God..." (cf. Rom. 8:28). God is faithful even when we are not. God is true even when we err. God is patient and longsuffering, even when we are impatient with our circumstances.
Finally, when I look at the cross, I can find no reason for anyone to complain about his circumstances. The One who truly had every reason to question God, or to complain to God, did not, but as it says in Hebrews 12:2, "...who for the joy set before him endured the cross..." If Christ, the sinless Savior, went to the cross with "joy" in doing God's will, then we who are piled-on with sins should have nothing to say about anything we find "negative" in our circumstances, even if it is painful and difficult by human standards. God never promised "health, wealth, and prosperity" in this sin-cursed world. All the blessings of the believer are in Christ. We can enjoy them and thank God for them. But the effects of sin are still in the world. God won't put an end to that until Christ returns. That's why our hope is Christ's triumphant and glorious return. The cross of Christ gives me ultimate hope, joy, and satisfaction even though my moment-by-moment circumstances may look bleak, the "joy" that Christ looked forward to can be my "joy" as I look forward to what He will do when He returns. Since Jesus went to the cross for my sins, I must ask the question that Paul asked, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). I have Christ who "loved me and gave Himself for me," so I can cope with life and all of its difficulties.
I hope my answer will help you better understand the problem of human suffering, especially in the light of the cross of Christ.
What happens to a person living in a remote place who has never heard the Gospel? Is he going to heaven? Is God going to send him a missionary?
First, let's dispel the notion that because someone does not have the Gospel, he is automatically exempt from judgment. This is simply false. In Rom. 3:23 it says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." We are all born into a sinful humanity and predisposed to a life of rebellion against the One True God. Concerning the unregenerate man, Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:14, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised."
Second, the testimony of the created order is fully sufficient and demands that everyone is of the Creator, but have turned away from Him to worship foolish idols (including themselves). Read Romans 1:18-32 and you'll quickly see what I mean.
Third, God's desire is that people be saved, but he cannot force people to believe in something that they don't want to believe. Free will and coerced belief are mutually contradictory principles. God cannot give a person free will and then make that person to believe in God--this is a major contradiction.
Fourth, just because the Gospel is presented to people it does not necessarily mean that people will believe. I see this almost every day as I present the Gospel and people routinely reject the message. Again, as I've noted above, most of humanity currently is rejecting God and the Gospel of Eternal Life.
Fifth, God in His infinite wisdom knows who will receive and who will reject and orchestrates "times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God..." (See Acts 17:26-27).
Sixth, James 4:8a says, "draw near to God and He will draw near to you..." If there is anyone who is truly seeking God (as I've outlined above, most of humanity rejects the plain and clear evidence of God and refuse to come to Him), He will send missionaries to him and the Gospel will be preached. This is clear from what the Bible consistently teaches.
Finally, this is why we are so eagerly trying to do evangelism and missions work. Let us get actively involved in taking the Gospel to those who have not heard it yet, thus demonstrating the justice of God as well as the mercy of God. Let us labor so that God's name is glorified amongst the nations and that all those who question God's character would be put to shame!
Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses' Attacks Against Jesus' Deity.
The Jehovah's Witnesses (henceforth, JWs) are 21st century version of 4th century heretic, Arius, who also believed that Jesus is a created being of God. These heretics obviously do not believe in the clear teaching of Scriptures regarding the full divinity of Jesus, as well as His full humanity.
Col. 1:15 uses the Greek word, prototokos, which means, "pre-eminence." That's why the same word is used in verse 18, where it says that He is the "firstborn from the dead." Now, if "firstborn" (Greek, prototokos) means first-created, then what in the world does verse 18 mean? Certainly he is not the first-created from the dead, is He? No! Jesus holds the pre-eminent position as the First truly glorified man from the resurrection. Notice Lazarus was raised as well as Jairus' daughter, but they are not called, "firstborn," but Jesus IS.
So, the JWs interpretation of "firstborn" is totally off. They are injecting their pre-conceived faulty system into the text. This is wrong! Dead wrong. So wrong that they will be eternally cut off from the Lord for that belief, if they don't repent.
Secondly, in Rev. 3:14, "The Beginning" does not mean that Christ is the first person God created, but rather that Christ Himself is the source or origin of creation. Look at Rev. 22:14, there Christ says that He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." This clearly points to Christ's eternality. He always existed. That's what it means.
The JWs will enter into eternal judgment because they will have to standbefore Christ Himself and defend their faulty position in completeblasphemy. The Lord Jesus will say to them, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matt. 7:23).
Let me know if I can clarify other things. But go and read John 1:1-3. What does the Bible say that Jesus is? He is the Creator God, not the created angel Michael, which the JWs believe. Yes, that's right! They actually believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel.
But the writer of Hebrews in Heb. 1:3-14, uses words like, "God, Lord, Son" to describe how Jesus is essentially different than the angels and that He is the infinite God-man.
I hope that you are thoroughly challenged by the JW's understanding of Scripture, although it is a faulty understanding.
The late Dr. Walter Martin used to say something like, "a regular Jehovah Witness will make a theological pretzel out of a regular Christian."
The cultists study very hard to promote a lie. Will you study hard to promote the truth?
In Genesis 17:8 it speaks of an "everlasting possession." How could this text say that if there will only be a millenial reign (not everlasting reign) of Christ before this world is destroyed?
The book of Revelation, which is the last and final book that talks about the "New Heaven and the New Earth" does not ever talk about the "earth" being destroyed, even though the world system will be completely destroyed. So, the Jews will occupy what is currently known as Palestine today. It will be vastly bigger than what it is today, but it will be that general area. God has determined that they have this land forever.
The "New Heaven" and "New Earth" will be a completely different configuration, but it will be, nonetheless, "heaven" and "earth." Notice that in Rev. 22:1-5, in the New Heaven and New Earth, God will dwell with men. So, when we die now, we go to God, when when Christ returns, He will bring heaven down to us and reign for a thousand years before a testing period for the people who are born during the millennium. That's when Satan will be released for a while to deceive the nations and then finally be judged (Rev. 20:7-10). Then the Great White Throne Judgement will take place and everyone will be judged based on their works. And THEN, the New Heaven and New Earth will be established.
In conclusion, when one's premise is false, then the conclusion will ALWAYS be false. Please double check the chronology of Rev. 20-22, and then carefully note that there is not a single passage in Scripture that talks about the EARTH being destroyed.
Can a member whose membership is revoked still stay at church?
If one's membership is revoked, there must be a good reason for it. Some of these reasons may be a general lack of commitment (Heb. 10:25), lack of submission (Heb. 13:17), disgruntled and complaining attitude toward the church and leaders (Phil. 2:14), or as bad as outright rebellion without genuine repentance (Ro. 1:29-31 lists some traits which are the hallmarks of the unregenerate unbeliever including unrepentant gossip and slander). It is clear that biblical counsel or discipline is necessary in such cases. When such counsel or discipline is not well received, then it is clearly a signal for removal. If this is the case, then the revoked member ought to be disciplined or needs to go and serve where he or she can fully give of himself or herself to the body. This is the will of the Lord, so EBCB will simply be consistent with what Scripture teaches.
If the case is not as severe and does not warrant a disciplinary action but a general "lukewarmness" of commitment, we will STRONGLY ENCOURAGE the member to either "radically commit" or pray about leaving. To allow a "lukewarm" commitment in the bodylife is to encourage dysfunction, which discourages others, and promotes spiritual atrophy that is harmful to the body. We simply don't want that at EBCB.
We've always been consistent in our teaching. Our membership course as well as the appendix on church discipline clearly teaches this. We clearly believe in the Holy Spirit's work in a person's life to bring forth change. And patience was, and still is, necessary. But to delay taking action while such persistent refusal to change takes place, is not only unloving and uncaring, but dishonoring to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves His Bride-the church. So, as we've been talking about accountability, we are asking our members to be accountable to the Lord and to His Church.
Is it the same thing to say that God inspired the men to give us the Scriptures vs. saying that God worked through the men to give us the Holy Scriptures which is the inspired Word of God the distinction being that the men were not inspired, but Scripture is inspired... one in the same???
Technically speaking, the "writings" are inspired, but often we loosely say that Paul was inspired or John was inspired, etc. But inspiration of Scripture means that "All SCRIPTURE is inspired by God" [emphasis mine] (2 Tim. 3:16a). So, at some point in our definition, we need to make that distinction
Not everything Paul wrote was inspired of God (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:9, 11, where Paul clearly refers to his previous letter to the Corinthians). Such writing was not inspired, but was part of an on-going correspondence with the saints.
If we were to define "inspiration" to the level of the author and not to the "writings" then we would have to conclude that Paul's previous writing to the Corinthians were inspired or "God-breathed" (Greek, theopneustos) If we found such a writing today, we would have to add it to the Canon of Scripture as the 67th book of the Bible, which would be inconsistent with what Bible teaches about divine inspiration.
In closing, remember, "All SCRIPTURE is inspired" and not "All AUTHORS are inspired." No doubt that all the authors were inspired to record God's thoughts when they wrote them, but not everything they wrote were necessarily inspired by God.
That is the technical understanding of inspiration. Many people however, do not make such fine distinction when they talk about inspiration, and indeed, they don't need to. But when pushed to a corner for a definition, we must give a clear definition for the sake of the defense of the Bible.
When is the rapture and will believers go through the tribulation and face persecution?
Often people confuse the "coming," (Greek, parousia) as a singular moment in time when in actuality it is a multiple-staged event. If you understand the Jewish wedding then you'll understand better how this works in multi-stages:
First, the groom comes with all of his friends (Jesus coming with all the angels). This usually happens at night (remember the parable of the 10 virgins in Matthew 25?). When the announcement is made, the bride and the bride's maids (the wise virgins who are prepared) arise and meet the groom and his friends and they parade through the town in great rejoicing. This is the rapture of the church. Then, the wedding party (the bride, the bride's maids, the groom, and the friends of the groom) all go and celebrate the wedding feast (this is where the 7-year tribulation takes place on earth, but we will be rejoicing with the Lord in the "air"). This is the "wedding feast of the lamb" described in Rev. 19:7, 9.
Then, in the Jewish wedding ceremony, the groom lifts up his cloak and the bride comes under it, signifying that she comes under his care and protection. And then she takes him to her wedding chambers and they consummate their marriage. After the 7-year tribulation is over, we descend to earth along with the Lord and we consummate our marriage and spend a thousand years in "honeymoon." This is the Millennial Kingdom described in Rev. 20:6.
The Bible passages that allude to the Lord's "coming" or parousia in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, points to the rapture before the reign of thousand year kingdom. This must be clearly understood from the context.
In Chapter 5, Paul talks about the "Day of the Lord," which is a technical term for the sudden judgment of God revealed in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice Paul said in 1 Thes. 4:18 as well as in 1 Thes. 5:11, to "encourage one another?" Now, if we (believers in Christ) are going through the Day of the Lord, which is a great judgment from God, then what words will encourage us? That won't be encouragement, but a great discouragement! Let's keep that in mind.
Okay, so, as to your questions about the Anti-Christ and Christian persecution, it is clear that Satan has always been persecuting true believers throughout the church history. And it is also true that the Anti-Christ spoken of by Jesus in Matt 24 and by John in Revelation is the end-time Anti-Christ, the one-world ruler of the revived Roman empire.
However, you must understand that "salvation" ultimately means "being saved from the judgment and wrath of God." The wrath of God does not remain in any believer. Notice what Paul says in 1 Thes. 5:9, "For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." God does allows persecution to purify the saints, but we will not go through the 7-year Great Tribulation period because we have not been prepared for the outpouring of His great wrath, but rather for salvation! This is truly good news!
A common misunderstanding and confusion of the martyrs who come out of the tribulation is because people misinterpret these martyred saints as Christians, when in actuality, they are, for the most part, Jewish believers who get converted during the Great Tribulation. There will also be gentiles who are granted salvation, but most of the Jews will come to faith during the tribulation time, but only through martyrdom because of the persecution of the Anti-Christ and the mark which he will demand upon every living person (cf. Rev. 13:18).
I hope that clarifies some of your questions. May the soon and coming Lord give you answers for life and godliness!
The Book of Revelation seems to indicate that "multitudes of saints" are going to come out of the tribulation as martyrs. Does this mean that the church will go through the tribulation and that we believe in a post-tribulation rapture?
The common misunderstanding of the "tribulation saints" are that they are no different than we are in God's salvation plan. However, upon closer examination, we will see that God's economy of salvation applies differently during the tribulation times.
Let's reflect on what we know from the Old Testament: God translated Enoch and Elijah without having them "taste death." God obviously had a different plan for these two men than all others who died. Just as a side note, it is my personal belief that the Two Witnesses, described in Rev. 11:3, will be Enoch and Elijah sent to preach judgment and repentance to the tribulation generation. Notice that both the Witnesses are allowed to be martyred by the Anti-Christ.
So, we know that God has a different economy for the tribulation times than he has for us prior to the 7-year Great Tribulation. All the believers will be raptured prior to the great tribulation and the "saints" will be those who are granted the grace of salvation through the tribulation suffering. How amazing is God's grace that He will extend His mercy even to the very end times!
Most of the Jews will be saved during this time through martyrdom, but many Jews will be protected by the Lord in a sovereign way for the latter half of the 7-year great tribulation period (cf. Rev. 12:6). These are the Jews who will come out of the great tribulation to re-populate the earth and through whom God will fulfill His covenant made to Abraham! All this will take place during the Millennial Kingdom.
Why does God exist in Three Persons? How can I believe in a God that I simply cannot understand?
As for the "why" of the Trinity, it is not a very good question. Imagine someone asking you "why" you exist or "why" you are the way you are. Well, of course, you would have to give an answer that describes you as a dependent being, that is, that the answer to your existence is not in yourself, but in someone else. You may trace your answer all the way back to your original ancestors, and then you would have to say God made them, and so the answer to your being is found in God.
However, when you are talking about The Only Independent Being, the Uncaused Being, the Creator and Maker Who alone is responsible for everyone else existing, you run into some major problems.
You may ask, "how is it that God exists in three persons but one essence?" But you may not ask, "why does He exist?" This question is as bad as "What does the color yellow taste like?" Such a question is simply bad. Colors don't have tastes. They only have hues, not tastes. So, to ask about taste in color is to make a categorical fallacy (category error).
In the same way, to ask about "why" a Creator exists, is to commit a categorical fallacy. I hope that you can follow this train of thought.
Because God is the most unique being in existence and all of us exists because He made us, we cannot fully fathom the awesome uniqueness of his very essence and nature. As a matter of fact, most people do not even understand about their own nature and essence. Just ask someone to explain how the brain works with the mind or the body with the soul and watch them squirm and stutter for a rational answer.
To ask a bad question and expect a good answer is not very wise. So, if someone says, "I don't understand the Trinity, so it must not be true." Then ask them, "Do you understand electricity, or the nature of light, or the interface between your soul and body?" If they don't fully understand these complex topics which we clearly see working, then how do they expect to understand the most unique, awesome, and complex being in all of the universe Who happens to be Infinite? To expect a finite answer to satisfy the finite mind when discussing an Infinite Being is simply ludicrous.
So, there you have it. Such questions come from bad thinking of a poor mind. We must be able to discern that. Let us not forget what the Bible says in 1 Peter 3:15,
"But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
And in 2 Timothy 2:15,
"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth."
Let us study to show ourselves capable of responding to any and all questions regarding the truthfulness of our faith. Remember, Biblical Christianity is NOT about speculations, BUT about CERTAINTIES!