Thursday, June 27, 2013

Turning away from wickedness, a must

Recently this text again caught my attention, and when I decided to add it to my "Words for all seasons" on this blog-site, I was surprised that I had NOT done any updating on these words since August 2012; and guess what, the last word on it, was the same 2 Tim 2:19!

2 Timothy 2:19 - Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."

I have preferred the KJ version (which I will explain in a while) - Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

The foundation of God
Verse 19 started with “nevertheless”, the foundation of God standeth sure, … What this means is that, despite what was said preceding to this verse, the foundation of God stands firm.  What was said before this? 

Verses 16-18 revealed to us, what was said was “propagation of godless chatter (NIV) or profane and vain babblings (KJV)”. Now, these are NOT idle/empty talks per se, but profanity against God and His teachings, and these are untruths as opposed to truths of God.  Despite the propagation of these, the foundation of God stands firm.  One untruth or profanity named there (in v18) was that the teaching that our resurrections had taken place!

We are destroyed when our faith is destroyed
About this “already resurrected” teaching (of Hymenaeus and Philetus), the Apostle Paul said, “destroys” faith (v18). 

2 Tim 2:17-18 –
17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.

Untruths about the core tenants of the faith or core theology such as the death and resurrection of our Lord, His works of redemption, and our hope of salvation and eventual glorification, they destroy faith.

John 10:10a said that Satan came to steal, kill and destroy; John 10:10b – Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly.  You will have noticed that “destroy” was put after “killing” (in John 10:10).  In other words, to have us killed (die, physically), is NOT the worst Satan can do to us, destruction is the worst; and destruction here refers to the 2nd death which means, being thrown eventually in the burning lake of fire of Hell to be tormented there, for eternity.  When a believer’s faith is destroyed, he no longer is on track for eternal life in Heaven, but is once again bound for Hell.  Yes, the passage was referring to believers; for only the believers have a faith to be destroyed (an unbeliever has no faith)!

Does one immediately have his faith destroyed?
The Apostle Paul gave us, here, one scenario of how it could happen.

Verse 16 NIV – Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.

Verse 16 KJV - But shun profane [and] vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.

The KJ version gives us a better representation.  For the NIV, one still needs to define what is “indulge in it”, and some people use this as the “escape clause”, by such thinking as, “I was NOT teaching it-what or propagating it-what; I only believe it”. 

Well, you are what you believe!  In other words, you live out your belief; and when you do that you are teaching it or propagating it by your own living example!  The KJV gives us the understanding that profane and vain babblings (which I already defined above), they (the profane and vain babblings) lead to greater ungodliness. In other words, the more and the longer you take it in, ungodliness in you can grow.  When ungodliness grows and festers, your correct belief system, faith, will suffer; over time, your faith gets destroyed.  This is why we are to reject heretic and apostate teachings; and this was why Apostle Paul warned Timothy, and instructed the latter how to handle such false teachings and teachers.

Still, stick to the truths
So, in verse 19, the Apostle Paul was assuring believers that despite and regardless, the spread of such false teachings, God’s foundation remains firm.

God’s foundation is first of all, truths.  Truths do NOT change; this contributes to God’s foundation remaining firm.  Truth is a big word, it covers a lot of ground, so to speak; did Scripture leave some clue as to what constituted the foundation of God’s rule?

What constitutes the foundation of God’s throne?
Ps 89:14a and Ps 97:2 both gave us the foundation of God’s throne as His righteousness and justice:

Ps 89:14a - Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;

PS 97:2 - Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.

The Apostle Paul did NOT quote Ps 89:14a or Ps 97:2, but he was NOT far from it.  Instead of quoting the twin pillars as in Ps 89:14 and Ps 97:2, Paul said there were these 2 inscriptions (on the pillars): “The Lord knoweth them that are his” and “And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity”.  They are referencing the same things as in the 2 psalm verses.

The righteousness pillar
The 1st pillar of the foundation in the psalm verses, is righteousness.  Instead of saying “righteousness” was inscribed as the foundation, Paul said everyone who nameth the name of Christ must depart from iniquity.  Meaning, everyone who confesses or professes the name of the Lord, must turn away from wickedness, which is the very opposite of righteousness. 

I have said at the start, that I have preferred the KJ version of v19, over the NIV, because the NIV used only the word, “confess”, in place of “nameth”.  It should be confess or profess.  Again, some people try to “escape” through this NIV “escape clause” - confess.  Their argument is this: “See, see, it said there, “confess”, meaning, it was only at the moment of conversion or born-again, that the person must turn away from wickedness, and NOT afterwards, for “confess” was generally used in 1st time profession of something.” (proper usage of confess and profess is such: 1st time – we say, “we confess”, subsequently, “we profess”). (Of course, more heretic ones even claim no confession or repentance is even needed at conversion!)

Whereas, the KJV’s use of “nameth” carried with it the meaning of “everyone who rely on the name of Lord, he must depart from wickedness (be embracing righteousness)”.

So, now banish from your thought, the notion and heretic teaching that a believer needs only to turn away from wickedness at his born-again, and have no need of doing so, perseveringly, subsequently.  As a foundation of God’s throne and rule, righteousness is expected to be embraced by us all, on-goingly.

The justice pillar
Paul’s equivalent was “The Lord knoweth them that (who) are his”.  Why did Paul NOT just say, “Justice was inscribed”?  Indeed, Paul was meaning to say justice!  We have expounded already (see above) about what was said, preceding the 2 Tim 2:19 verse – that there were these false preachers/teachers claiming their teachings or theology or doctrines were correct and propagating them, and had them spread (like gangrene!).  Typically, in such, even as it is today, both sides, the true gospel believers/preachers and the heretic believers/preachers, each would claim they are right; in other words, each said that justice would prevail for them.  In fact, the tendency to quarrel would be so strong, that Paul warned against quarrelling (v14).  Paul, we believe, drew the “The Lord knoweth them that (who) are his”, from the failed revolt of Korah in Numbers 16.

In that Num 16 account, Moses’ handling showed us that we have to abide by God’s justice. 

What is justice?  Simply it is what God considers as just is justice!  As a side, there is no such thing as equality for all; there is only justice with God.  You are born into a rich family; I, a poor family, there is no equality (Please do NOT wrongly tell people there is equality with God; the Bible does NOT record such); yet there is justice with God.  For example, God might have endowed me with intelligence above the one born with a silver spoon, or that I have been endowed with a talent that I can make a living with, or that God would protect and provide for me, as I follow Him.  The point is that God knows about everyone who approaches Him. 

God is the knower of hearts of men (Acts 1:24, KJV).  And those of us who are believers or His children, God knows us by the interaction of the Holy Spirit with our spirit.  So, at any point in time, God knows who is for Him and who is NOT!  Whatever Holy Spirit considers just for you, for the time and season, that is justice of God for you. For example, Scripture recorded for us, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, He gives to each as He determines (1 Cor 12:11; also 1 Cor 12:4-6); in this too, God is just.

In that failed revolt of Korah and his fellow Levites against the High Priest, Aaron, Moses simply relied on God was just, for He knew who He had given what or He had called to what (similar to 1 Cor 12:4-6).  Korah and his fellow Levites were separated by God to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to people, and here they wanted to challenge the position of Aaron, the High Priest.  We read, in Num 16:5 Moses said this: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him…”  The account ended with the Korah’s camp gotten swallowed up by the ground opening up!  Justice was served.  Aaron was vindicated.

Obviously, “who belongs to him (God)” means more than like in “this wallet belongs to me”! You should know that both Korah and Aaron belonged to God.  Firstly, they were both God’s children or people.  Secondly, both held position of office, but different offices, one was a Levite head (Korah), another, the High Priest, NOT just a Levite.  It is, when you belong (to God), you don’t just belong (as in the wallet belongs to me; that is given), you should also be at the station God deems just. 

Do you know that, in salvation, we are all soldiers of God?  Yes, we belong to God, but if we are NOT at our station God deems just, we could have mutinied! When you have mutinied, do you still belong to God?  Whose justice can you still fall back on?  Whose side are you still on?  Couldn’t the roaring lion devour you?  Think about it, what will happen to you if you mutinied against the USA – punishable by death!  What happened to Korah?  The ground swallowed him (and the others) up!

Don’t handle “God knows who are His, lightly”!  Many believers think that they, without self-examination, can simply claim “God knows who are His”, and expect to be safe.  For a start, everyone who confesses or professes the name of the Lord must turn from wickedness.  Revolt or rebellion, for example, is already wickedness or is iniquity!  Furthermore, as I have said, when it is foundational, it is applying on-going, meaning, both righteousness and justice we are to be embraced on-goingly and perseveringly. 

I don’t know you
Again I remind, just because we are a child of God from our born-again or conversion, it does NOT mean God necessarily know us all the time; just as Korah in the Numbers 16 account was a child of God.  And so, please do NOT embrace heretic teaching that says righteous living is NOT key in our working out of our salvation (Phil 2:12); righteous living and justice must be embraced all the time, failing which, you must come back into it.  It can be, if you don’t embrace justice (His justice), God may say to you, “I don’t know you!”  It can also be, if you don’t embrace righteous living, God may say to you, “I don’t know you!”  Obviously, if you pervert His truths or propagate untruths, you are NOT embracing His justice, for justice is about truths and God’s decisions, which must be right and just (they cannot be otherwise).

Applications included these:
Matt 7:21-23 - 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Luke 6:46-49 - 46"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? 47I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. 48He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete."

Pro 1:29-33 - 29 Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD {fear the Lord here refers to hate evil or wickedness; “fear of the LORD” - KJV}, 30 since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, 31 they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. 32 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 but whoever listens to me {in so doing, you are embracing His righteousness and justice} will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm."

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: Whether it pertains to salvation, Christian living or service, turning away from wickedness is a must.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head

Heaping burning coals on another’s head, this phrase can be found in Scripture here:

Pro 25:21-22 – 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.

Rom 12:20-21 – 20 On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

What does the phrase mean?
I came across this phrase reading a blog article, and I kind of not see how the described scenario by the author was explaining the meaning of the phrase or could have lighted up the “now I got it” bulb of the writer.  This is NOT meant to put down that blogger whom I, from time to time, tried to be encouraging.

It is NOT negative!
Heaping burning coals on another’s head is NOT having a negative connotation.  It is NOT hitting back or taking revenge or “doing someone in”.  It is NOT doing a bad thing to another.  Whether you are reading the Proverbs text or the Romans text, it is clear from the 2 verses, in each case.

When one is hungry and you give him food to eat, or when he is thirsty, you give him water to drink, how can that be bad?  In the Proverbs, the 2nd verse said that the LORD would reward you.  God would NOT reward you for your bad action, would He?  Then, if you are looking at the Romans text, the 2nd verse said NOT to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  In other words, such action(s) is(are) good, NOT bad, NOT evil.

From living tradition
From the way life went about for the Jews or people in that period and place, we can understand why “heaping burning coals on another’s head” is NOT a bad thing, but a good one!

In olden days (we can still find it at some, more remote places), people carried all sorts of things using their heads.  I was told by a missionary from Madagascar that bricks are being moved about by people (women, mostly), being carried on the heads, 10 or more bricks, each time!  Of course, most of us have seen pictures of water jugs or jars being carried on heads of people.

Now, in the holy land in those days, even fire braziers could be carried on the heads of people when there was a need.  Fire braziers were a “must have” in the homes, and fire was kept “alive” all the time to keep warm, etc.  When it was cold in the desert-land, it was cold, and people needed fire to keep warm. When it happened that the fire in the brazier died out in a home, a person might carry the brazier on his head over to his neighbor’s house and ask for some burning (live) coal.  If you were a generous or charitable (loving) neighbour, you would heap the burning coals from your brazier to the person’s brazier on his head, so that the person could bring the fire back home to warm the people who had lost the warm because the fire of their brazier had died out.  Of course, from there, you could also get the fire to cook your food, etc.  See, it was and is a good act, not a bad one.

The closest one to this, that I have lived out, is this: When I was a boy, I lived with my parents in a saw-mill.  In those days, much work was still manually done, and there were many labourers working on the processes of turning a log into wood and planks for building construction, etc.  Because there were many labourers and they stayed there, in the sawmill, too, and they needed to be provided with meals and drinking water, there was a common stove compound where the wood scraps were used as fuel to boil water and make meals.  There were several huge stoves there, and the fire was kept alive most of the day (except the night).

My father worked as a timber grader in the saw-mill; and there were other families in the sawmills, most were families of the office staff, although some of the labourers also had moved their families into the sawmill quarters.  The families, the mothers, they had to cook for their family to eat.  And the families were allowed to take the burning charcoals from those huge stoves that I mentioned earlier; and I would see and sometimes assisted my mother to take these live charcoals from the compound stoves to our own household kitchen stoves to cook the meals of the day.  We did NOT bring our kitchen stoves to the huge stove compound, though; what we did was that we would bring tin containers (“dustpans” in shape) made out of rectangular biscuit or oil tins (cut diagonally across, giving 2 triangular “dustpans”).  From the common huge stoves, we would use a common shovel to get the burning charcoals and heap them into the “dustpan” containers.  We would walk back home holding the “dustpan of burning charcoals”. When we reach home, we would pour the live charcoals into our kitchen stove, and mom could then have the fire to cook or boil water.  This would be a daily affair.  Oh, I could picture my childhood in the sawmill compound.  Oh, how time has passed me by!

Well, the sawmill company did a charitable thing – allowing everyone to access and take, on a daily basis, the burning charcoals, home for cooking, etc.  Otherwise, we would have to spend time starting and building a sustained fire for cooking or boiling water each time.

Now, there are of course, people who said that, nonetheless, when used in Scripture, of that phrase, it was NOT linked to that kind of tradition; I leave you to consider.

“Love-shock approach”
If you have looked close enough, you would have noticed the words, “your enemy” in the texts.  Enemies are expected to disagree, bicker, fight, hit at each other, plotting against each other, and even gloating at each other – these are normal attitudes and actions of people at enmity.

God’s exhortation to us, as approach, is always love (unto righteousness), if do, always do good, never evil. Instead of an eye for an eye, or evil for evil, we are exhorted in Scripture, to reciprocate in love; be good, be generous, and be charitable.

When people are in need, but they do NOT offend us or afflict us, we help them, through various ways; in doing that, we are practising love.  Such people are looking to love and charity, and we respond in that direction.  Such people are NOT our enemy; we do NOT need to “fight” them.  Such a person, let’s say, had NOT eaten for 3 days, and approach you for food, and you respond with giving over of your lunch pack.  There is no shock there, but it is that you have responded as what was wanted and expected by the person in need.  The person is NOT your enemy; you do NOT, NOT only do NOT help him, with his hunger, rob him of his blanket that he needs to keep himself warm, do you?! 

The above described one way of practising love - be charitable towards another, a neighbour or a stranger, even. 

Now, if you do NOT accept the origin of the phrase, “heaping burning coals on another’s head” has to do with the tradition of living as outlined above, you should be able to accept that it was referring NOT to a bad thing, but a good act, as outlined by me under the caption of “It is NOT negative!”  It is doing good; an act of loving-kindness, a practice of love.

Used on our enemy, it, “heaping of burning coals on another’s head”, is exhorting a more difficult kind of practising of love.  It is shocking, and it is a love-shock to your enemy that you would love him/her.

Jesus epitomised both love approaches
Jesus’ own life and ministry epitomised both kinds of practising of love.  Jesus, for example, prayed for people to heal them of sickness and free them from oppression.  Such people, they were NOT Jesus’ enemy; they were people in need, and Jesus healed them in practise of love, although it did glorify God the Father. 

On top of that, Jesus practised loving His enemy.  At the Garden of Gethsemane, for example, the enemy of Jesus came for Him to catch Him, and from that capture, Jesus was crucified.  The Apostle Peter fought back, cutting the ear of one of the enemy’s men.  Jesus did what the 2 texts of this article, is about: the enemy now has a need, the ear was cut off, and needed “fixing”; Jesus fixed the ear back, and healed it.  Jesus did contrary to what enemy would be expected to do to each other (I have explained what enemies were expected to do to each other, above).  I call this the “love-shock” approach of practising love.

This approach of practising love is difficult for the practitioner (part of “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” {Matt 5:48}), for it goes against our natural tendency, but we are nonetheless exhorted to practise it, even directly by the Lord, Himself. 

Examples of such love-shock approach exhorted by the Lord, included: to turn the other cheek over, too (Matt 5:39; Luke 6:29), give the tunic, too, (Luke 6:29), and love your enemies, do good to them, bless them, and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28; also Matt 5:44).

Heaping burning coal on another’s head can be under the first approach, the simple moving out in love for another, a neighbour, or even a stranger; but it can also be employed in a love-shock approach, doing it on your enemy.

Romans 12:19 talks about vengeance-what!
Some of the people who are too quick to assume “heaping burning coals on another’s head” as a fight back or revenge, because they saw and focussed on the verse before, Romans 12:19.  Yes, Rom 12:19 talked about God does avenge, and we are to leave it to Him, but that does NOT mean that the common stance for us to take, is to have revenge, even through the Lord. 

The common stance was given in another verse earlier, in v18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”  Yes, the most common stance for us, is to live at peace with everyone, and that includes our enemy.  It is NOT, “Ok, now Lord, whack the fellow!”  And the more excellent way is to love-shock.

What is the purpose of the love-shock approach?
It, love-shock approach, is out of this world, you-know, you crazy or what?!  It is out of this world; that I can agree with you, for the Bible said so. 

Scripture tells us that when we have entered into salvation, we are no longer of this world, although we are still in the world.  The ways that we are to live, since we are now God’s people, and of His Kingdom, are those of His Kingdom, and NOT those of this world; it is out of this world.  In other words, you and I don’t find it natural, but supernatural to do such love-shocks.  When we embrace and live out the ways of the Kingdom of God, we are being supernatural; and over time, we are to be naturally supernatural.  The thing to bear in mind is that, we can grow over time, and we are to grow in the right direction, over time, and so, be overcoming in the world.

What is the purpose of practising love?  Why are we to love; to love God, and to love our neighbours (which include brothers and sisters in Christ, and enemies, too!)?  Let’s say we leave out the “why” we love God, just to keep the article short, why is it that we are to love our neighbours?

Because we love God.  Because we love God, we love our neighbours.  God loves men - you, me, and she and he, and the one over here or there or everywhere.  That is the will of God; and so, when we love God, we share the heart of God; we should want to let God love (men) through us; that which is what He wants.  We are therefore, God’s vessels for extension of His love to men. Or, I always tell believers that we love men with the love of God, not with our own love!  Scripture said that our love, all of it, is to be devoted to God - we love God only, and no other, and we love Him with our all. 

Viewing it from the command perspective, God commands us to love, and so, we have to love, for to love Him, God, we are to obey His commands.  Jesus said those who love Him, obeys His commands, and those who obey His commands are the ones who love Him (John 14:15 & John 14:21).  Scripture said that the second (second greatest command), like the first (to love God with your all), is to love, to love your neighbours.  We have to love men, don’t we?!

Then, there is the “we have benefited from God’s love, and we would like other men to experience God’s love”.  The primary source of love is God, and it is He who loves, and we, He would like to love through, too.  So, it is NOT we decide who should be loved and who should NOT be loved.  Jesus said, if we love the loveable, and people who love you are loveable (unless you reject the love), what extra do you do, or what credit do you expect to receive?!  We are to love even the unloveables, like our enemies; we are NOT to pick and choose for God, indirectly, saying to Him, “This one, you can love; that one, you should NOT love or I don’t want you to love him/her!”  So, we can see, if we practised NOT, at all, love-shock approach, we are NOT training ourselves to be open to God’s loving freely, who He wants, through us. 

Jesus, in Matt 15:21-28, for example, used the word, “dog” on a Canaanite woman, yet in the end, Jesus still let love flowed out to the woman by doing as requested by the woman, healing of her daughter of demon-possession.  Was there really love-shock here?  The Canaanite woman did NOT really got a love-shock; she was expecting Jesus to help, and she gave Jesus an “faith-full” answer to Jesus’ questioning of why He, Jesus, should be addressing people who were NOT the children of God.  I submit to you, it was NOT just a matter of this healing/deliverance was recorded to show us that faith could draw God to heal, it was also to love-shock the disciples.  In other words, the occasion was also to teach the disciples that they must be prepared to act in love towards anyone God wanted to extend love (Before Jesus finally attended to woman, Scripture recorded that the disciples was wanting the woman be sent away).

Although in the above scenario of the Canaanite woman, Jesus’ agreement to deliver her daughter, did NOT appeared to have love-shocked the woman, it is possible that one of the purposes of love-shock approach of practising love is to bring the recipient to a position of humility, be contrite of heart, be filled with godly sorrow leading to repentance.  Perhaps, some of the disciples of Jesus did have that effect, realising that they were wrong to have simply brushed the Canaanite woman aside.

Also, I do NOT know about you, if you have some hang-up on this, it is up to you, but as far as I am concerned, I want more of God’s love, and when we practise love, we will experience more of God’s love. 

John 14:21 reads, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

We know that the 2 prime commands of God are to love Him with our all, and to love our neighbours.  Here, in the first part of v21, I have already said, Jesus said that those who obey His commands are the ones who loved Him, Jesus.  And in the commands, one of the 2 prime ones is ….. love our neighbours.  The 2nd part of the verse said, (1) those (those who obey) would be loved by the Father God, (2) Jesus too, would love them, and (3) Jesus would show Himself to them. Do you want more of these?  If you want to be modest, and think you don’t want them or need them; well, I want them all, more!  And so, what must I do?  Obey the Lord’s commands, prime of which, is to love my neighbours.  In other words, I need to practise love.

God the Father showed it
It is possible that some stubborn people would NOT turn from their unkind or evil ways, when experiencing the love of God the normal way, receiving acts of kindness of love from people who are NOT their enemy, but love-shock can open people up to see God for whom He truly is.  God the Father showed it to us!

Are we NOT the enemy of God, in our fallen state?  So, what did God do; did He simply fought us, did us in, or plotted against us or gloated at us?  No, He did NOT do what we would expect, or did the common things we, in our fallen state, would do to our enemy; instead He heaped burning coals on our heads – He let His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross, so that through Jesus’ propitiation, we may be reconciled back to Him, and have eternal life.  Although we were at enmity with God, we still, like in the 2 texts, Pro 25:21-22 and Rom 12:20-21, needed spiritual food, and we needed the living water; God gave His Son to us as the food and drink. 

What did Jesus say about His body and His blood?  Eat and drink these (His body and His blood), in remembrance of what He did – that while we were at enmity with God (sinners), in an act of love, both the Father God and He, the Son, agreed to overcome the evil Man has done (in the Garden of Eden – The Fall), with good.  Jesus is the good, and the Good News.

Even if our enemy’s conscience, at times, is NOT pricked by our love-shock practice of love, and no repentance results, we are to still to practise that, so that we can be free vessel of God’s love flowing out to touch lives.  Did all men come to repentance and received in, the love-shock by the Father God (and Jesus, even)? No, NOT all accept Jesus.  When God still went ahead, why shouldn’t we?!

So, remember now, practise love, including shock your enemy with your love. Keep up the heaping of burning coals on another’s head!  It is love in action; good, and NOT bad or evil.

PS: It means you have forgiven?
To have heaped burning coals on another’s head = you have forgiven?  Some people link it to Lev 16, and Isaiah 6:5, in this regard. 

In Lev 16, the High Priest brought a censer of burning coals from the altar to before the most holy place (before God), and it was God who forgave. 

In Isa 6, prophet Isaiah, when given the vision of the throne-place, was highly conscious of his sinfulness (“Woe to me!”), and an angel took a burning coal from the altar and touched the lips of Isaiah, cleansing him. 

So, when you heap burning coals on another’s head, are YOU forgiving the enemy, and God will reward you (Pro 25:22)? Or, are YOU overcoming evil with forgiveness (Rom 12:21)? 

Although I am one of those who would take John 20:23, literally, to mean when I forgive my enemy (wrongdoings against me, NOT another), God would forgive that person, on my account (that I have forgiven),  I kind of feel it is too much of a round-about way of saying thing, if indeed, that is the intent of the text – that if we would feed our enemy or satisfy their thirst, it means we have forgiven the person.  In my view, forgiveness, need to be specifically done, first, in our heart, apart from any separate gestures.  The latter are only evidence of a state - that you have forgiven.  It is putting the cart before the horse, so to speak.  Does one get a reward, specifically, for forgiving; or is it we are commanded to forgive?  I think it is more like the latter.  Rom 12:21 is clear that it said to overcome evil with good.  Even though, forgiving is good, is the good here ONLY confined to forgiveness?  Probably NOT. 

My inclination is still that “heaping burning coals on another’s head means, “helping to bring the person (the enemy) to a position of seeing the error of his ways, and change”.  It is, it MAY bring …., and NOT it definitely would bring (there will be some who are stubborn and would NOT see the errors of their ways, despite whatever good you have done) repentance, but God honours your effort and heart-condition, and rewards you (Pro 25:22), and what you have done (seeing to the needs of your enemy) is good, loving-kindness, and likely to, NOT only confound evil, but also melt evil.

I know, some people linked it to Lev 16 and Isa 6:5, but still come to a similar conclusion that I have just expressed in the above paragraph; but really, I have felt no need of that linking (to Lev 16 and Isa 6:5) {too tenuous}, and could still arrive at the conclusion.  I believe the sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in us, helps, in spiritual understanding of the Word.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Correctly dividing John 5:24

Erroneous exposition
Some believers use John 5:24 to justify their stance that, once saved is always saved, or that there is nothing to overcome anymore, once you have entered into salvation.  In fact, such phrase as “enter into salvation” has no place in their vocabulary, for to them it is either one is saved or one is NOT saved; to them there is no such thing as, to have entered into salvation and NOT saved at any point in time, regardless.  We will see what John 5:24 says:

John 5:24- "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.

It is over-simplistic to take the verse to mean “when you heard the Lord’s word, and you believe the Father God sent Him (Jesus), you have eternal life that cannot be taken from you ever again and you will NOT ever be condemned anymore; you will never go into death (NOT 1st death, but 2nd death), ever again”.

Such simplicity is in the like of saying the phrase, in Acts 2:21, of “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved”, is meaning that anyone, really anyone, who calls out, “Lord, Lord”, the Lord must save him?!  Of course NOT.   It was NOT and is NOT simply saying anyone who calls out, “Lord, Lord”, he will be delivered now or forever saved (eternally saved).  We must understand the intent of the phrase (of Acts 2:21) was to say there was no distinction as to Gentiles or Jews when it came to salvation.  When we take this phrase as describing what is needed for salvation, you get the wrong belief system.  You get, “Yah-what, it said there, just call out to the Lord and the Lord must save you”; which is wrong.  No need to believe that the Lord died for you, and was sent by the Father God!  Cannot be, right?!

Context and intent
Firstly, contextually, the verse of John 5:24 was given to emphasise this: “to be in eternal life, one has to believe it was the Father God’s plan for salvation”.  The context was given us, in the verses preceding the verse, starting from v16.  The “mechanics” of salvation was given very simply, without elaboration. Instead of catching the intent that Jesus was stressing, the false teachers focussed on the mechanics (which was simply stated), and said that Jesus meant the mechanics of salvation was like that – once saved, always saved.

About the mechanics
The mechanics of salvation is this: let’s say, presently, we have a person, how does he get into salvation (I wouldn’t even want to use here, “how does he get saved?)?  He needs to hear the gospel (the “my word” there in the verse, for Jesus was talking about salvation, epitomized by His first sermon – “The Kingdom of God is near or at hand”).  It is really simply simplistic to imply that Jesus was saying all one needs in this regard, is just to have heard the gospel, like one heard the phone ringing.  The “hear” here, is definitely NOT hear as in “she hears the phone ringing, or hears a sound”.  From the overall counsel of the Word, the “hear” here, although here, being New Testament, was in Greek, the equivalent Hebrew word is “shema”. 

Shema can be having meaning along the full spectrum, from hear, as in, hear a sound or door bell, to listen, to listen to comply, to listen to grant.  And so, God may NOT listen to you, but He hears you; in both instances, shema may have been used.  Here, in our verse, hear is “hear with due consideration and understanding”, the furthest end of the range of meanings of the Greek word used.  I would say that perhaps, it was still short; it is closer to “hear, understand and agree with” the gospel.  When one agrees with the gospel, it would include agreeing that it was and is the plan of the Father God unto salvation (John 3:16); in other words, the person needs to believe the Father God sent Jesus.

Mere hearing is enough; cannot be!
People who insist, John 5:24 gives the full mechanics of salvation, would then argue it is wrong to get people to say the Sinner’s Prayer or to get them to put their hands up, or to come down to the sanctuary front, and say that he/she wants to accept Jesus as his/her personal Lord and Savior, for the simple reason that all it said of the person is to hear the gospel, and believe the Father God sent Jesus.  I ask a simple question: Does one really believe an old hanging bridge will hold, if he will NOT walk across?  So, one believes, and he will NOT put his hands up, or speak it out, or confess it to another?  Jesus did NOT say any of these, because He was NOT focussing on the mechanics of salvation; He was emphasizing it was the Father God, the God whom the people purportedly believed (the Father God was the God the Jews then knew), who has sent Him, and so He, Jesus, was there, doing those things, including miracles, that the Pharisees were angry about.

So, now, this person whom we are having here, hears the gospel, understands it, and agrees with it, and believes God (the Father) had sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us (John 3:16), and he shows it or affirms it or confesses it, he crosses over from death to life.  We will look in a little while, in more detail, what is meant by “he crosses over from death to life”?  I want to say a little more on what it takes to be saved.

Following Jesus is necessary
In Jesus’ own words (John 10:27-29): 27My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.

We can see Jesus gave us a few conditions to stay saved.  We are saved at the point of entry into salvation; thereafter until we die (physically), we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12).  I will list the conditions (contained in v27) below:

1.      We got to listen to His voice:  “My sheep listen to my voice”, said Jesus.  Do you listen (NOT just hear, but listen) to His Word, and the Holy Spirit, who is His Spirit?

2.      Jesus knows you:  “I know them”, said Jesus. It is NOT we know Jesus (“know” here is NOT “know about” {like you know about the President, but you don’t know him}, but know, as in I know him, for we grew up together and have been close), but that Jesus knows us.  Actually, we cannot know another, if the other does NOT know us!  In Scripture, at Matt 7:21-23, we also read that Jesus said that NOT all who call Him “Lord, Lord”, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven; in verse 23 (of Matt 7), Jesus said, “'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”  You have to ask yourself, if Jesus knows you (NOT about you, but knows you)?

3.      We know Jesus:  I just said, “knowing” is a two party-thing.  Jesus knows you, and you also need to know Jesus.  How have you get to know Him?  Have you spent time in His presence?  Have you spent time studying His Word?  Have you spent time being led by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit)?  Have you spent time walking and working Him (following and serving Him)?

4.      We need to follow Jesus: “They follow me”, said Jesus (in John 10:27).  In the Matt 7:21-23 text (mentioned in point 2), Jesus added that it is ONLY those who do the will of the Father God who will be admitted to the Kingdom of Heaven.  In Luke 6:46, Jesus said: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? Doing the will of the Father God and doing the will of Jesus, is of course the same, for Jesus only does the Father’s will.  And it is we have to do the will of God in our lives, if we want to go to be with Him in Heaven, when we have passed on.  Now, what does it mean to “follow” someone?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  It simply means we have to obey Jesus and do as He wants us to.  The Lord tells us what He wants us to do, in His Word, so, do you obey His Word?  The Lord tells us what He wants us to do, by His Spirit (the Holy Spirit), so, do you obey the Spirit and be led by the Spirit?  Are you following Jesus, or are you only having said He is your Saviour?  Is salvation without the Lordship of Christ Jesus?  Fat hope, if you think you can have salvation without having to hold Jesus Christ as your Lord!

It is after Jesus has mentioned the above (in John 10:27), that in the verse following (v28), He said “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…”

Brother Anthony, how about, it was said in the John 10 text, that Jesus said, no one could snatch us from His hand or the Father’s hand?  Yes, repetition (cannot be snatched from His hand and the Father’s hand) is an emphasis.  My answer is simple:  If you listen to Jesus, if Jesus knows you and you know Jesus, and you follow Him, yah, no one can snatch you from God’s hand; but if NOT, well, it depends! One thing that people tend to forget is that we are still with volition, if you will it, to follow another or evil, that’s NOT snatching!

What is “crosses over from death to life”?
What does it mean, “he crosses over from death to life”?  Death here cannot be referring to physical death, or the life, physical life, for a physically dead person cannot hear, can he, he cannot understand, can he, and he cannot agree, can he, at least NOT in the same way, we who are alive, can!  So what does it mean?  Actually, the verse did leave us a clue; it has this in it: “he will NOT be condemned”.  The “condemned” here, in the verse is NOT just a general condemnation with a wide meaning; it is having the meaning of damnation, and damnation in religious understanding is “condemned to Hell”.  But of course, it has NOT happened yet, being in Hell, I mean, when one is damned; it is to take place in the future. 

The Biblical understanding is that, until one comes into salvation, he is already damned; only that he is NOT yet in there, Hell, that is.  Death, Bible tells, can be referring to the 1st death which is the physical death or the 2nd death which is “be thrown into Hell (or lake of fire of Hell), and remain there (be tormented there))”.  So, one common way of putting it, until one enters into salvation, he is “legally” dead; it is only a matter of time, before he will be thrown into Hell and remains there forever. 

Practically, it is only the 1st death that is separating one (non-believer, for example) from the 2nd death.  The non-believer is NOT in Hell solely because he has NOT yet died (there may still be a time lag after 1st death before he goes there – Hell).   So, when he has heard the gospel, understood it, and agreed with it, and (so), believed that it was the Father God’s salvation plan, and wanted it, his “legal” penalty of death is squashed (squashed because Jesus paid for it).  So, in the last bit of the verse, we read that the person has crossed over from death (damnation) to life.  He is no longer bound for Hell or 2nd death, and so, he is back on the life track. 

From damned previously to NOT damned, NOT can never be damned!
Because the death is not the physical or mortal death, the life referred to, is NOT the mortal life or earthly life, which the person is always having; otherwise he can’t hear, can he, can’t believe, can he (at least, NOT in the same way as we who are having earthly life, do).  So, you see, it is the damnation that has been removed, and so, it said there, that he will NOT be condemned.  It is NOT he will NOT ever be condemned again, but it is he has crossed over from death to life, and so, he will NOT be condemned or he is no longer condemned, from he was condemned previously.

From bound for Hell (eternal death) to bound for Heaven (eternal life)
We saw it already, Jesus said that the person crossed over from death to life; and that life is NOT the earthly mortal life that is being referred to.  So, what is it referring to?  The death in Hell or 2nd death is one where one gets thrown into Hell and remains there and be tormented there forever.  Remember, Jesus talked about crossing, so, on the one side is the everlasting torment in Hell (called death {2nd death}), the other side is the opposite – everlasting joy in Heaven (called life {eternal life}). 

There is still, the time has NOT yet come
Just as for 2nd death, unless one enters into salvation, it is only a matter of time, in the time continuum that one gets there, Hell; similarly when the person crossed over to life, he is in eternal life, but he is NOT yet there in Heaven.  Does the person have eternal life or eternal death, upon entry into salvation?  The answer is eternal life.  That is what the verse said, when one effectively entered into salvation, he has eternal life or in eternal life, even though he is NOT yet reaching there – Heaven. 

Jesus finished His race, overcoming; you and I, in it (the race), but NOT yet (finish)
The person is now “legally” alive, as opposed to previously, legally dead.  There is nothing said, that implies or suggests that the line between death and life cannot be re-crossed over again!  It does NOT say or imply “Once saved is always saved” nor that once you crossed over from death to life, you have overcome all things or the world, even as Jesus Himself had done so – overcame the world.  It is He, Jesus, has overcome, but we, IN HIM, should be able to.  Without IN HIM or THROUGH HIM, I doubt anyone is able.

Nowhere in Scripture is there a saying, without a shadow of doubt, that says, once you entered into salvation, you will 100% get there – Heaven.  People need to understand (1) what gets them to be “legally” dead, in the first place, (2) what is the meaning of redemption, and (3) there is NOT, one time of reckoning given in Scripture, but more than one.

Sin was what got us there, be legally dead.  Yes, the Original Sin did us in, so to speak; but if we go back to Adam and Eve, it was their sinning that got them and us, the Original Sin.  Scripture also said that the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).  So, when Adam and Eve sinned, they had to face the consequence, unbelievers when they sinned, they had to face the consequence; it cannot be right, that when we, believers, sin, it is of no consequence!  Nowhere in Scripture, it is stated that the wages of sin after entry into salvation is NOT death or of no consequence.

Redemption means to restore to the original state.  The original state was that Adam and Eve were of no sin, but if they sinned, they would have to face the consequence.  With God freely pardoning us for the Original Sin, and setting us back to the state of Adam and Eve were, and so, you and I cannot still exclaim “unfair”; at the same time, we want only the good part, but NOT the same responsibility of NOT sinning, which Adam and Eve were having?! There is no reason to think that the full works, including the responsibility NOT to sin, do NOT kick in.

If you die immediately upon entry into salvation, yes, I can agree that you probably get to Heaven.  If NOT, then there are more times of reckoning, and they included our time of death, and the end-time judgment.  The point is that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life at our entry into salvation, and we have to ensure that at our death, our names are still in.  My understanding from Scripture is that, names can be blotted out from the Lamb’s Book of Life.

If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven
I say that, “If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven”, yet it is NOT once saved, is always saved.  Are you confused?  The explanation is faith. 

I don’t know what I will do or will NOT do, in the future.  I can only believe what I will do or will NOT do.  My future is NOT a completed movie that will NOT change; what I will do or will NOT do, have NOT happened; and if I now can see into my future, say at 3 years from now, what I see, and what I will see from 3 months later, at the same point in the future (it will be 2 years and 9 months), it can be different.  Why can it be different?  Simply, it is I am being worked on, by the Lord, and hopefully, I grow and mature under the refining fire of God. 

Our future is NOT fixed or static.  For example, 5 years ago, assuming you could look into the future, and you saw today, you would sin, you would backstab your best friend and colleague.  Yet, today may pass without you doing that very sin of backstabbing your best friend and colleague!  How come? In the 5 years leading to present time, you could have matured to the extent you would no longer succumb to jealousy or whatever that would drive you to sin against your best friend and God. 

Of course, it can go the other way round, you did NOT see that backstabbing 5 years ago, but today, you backstab your best friend and colleague!  Because you did NOT grow in the faith, and got ensnared by evil. 

So, today if I say I will NOT backstab my best friend and colleague 5 years from now, I am going by faith, after self-examination. Scripture said in 2 Cor 13:5, that we ought to be self-examining ourselves (all the time) to see if we are still in the faith. 

“If I die now, I am saved, and I go to Heaven” is my faith statement, after self-examination.  I will go to Heaven if I die now is my belief and faith, yet still, it is God decides if I really go or NOT, to Heaven.  It is, I believe my name is still on the Lamb’s Book of Life, NOT blotted out.  In actuality, whether or NOT, my name has been blotted out or NOT, the Lord is the one who decides; I can only obey Him, follow Him, serve Him, and love Him, to the best I can.  It is, I am bound for Heaven, NOT to Hell, and I do my best according to the Word, led by the Spirit, to stay on the course, carrying myself in every way justifying my faith in believing if I die now I am saved, and I go to Heaven.  But judgment ultimately belongs to God; I make it or NOT, is based on His assessment, NOT mine. 

Those who argue that it is once saved, always saved, they are saying that once you entered into salvation, you are saved, and even God cannot stop you from entering Heaven.  It is you are saved, regardless; regardless what you think, do, or would NOT do, since entry into salvation; no amount of sinning or denying the Lord can keep you from Heaven; God can NEVER condemn you anymore!    This, God did NOT promise in Scripture. 

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
Comments are welcome here. Alternatively, email them to me @: Or just email me your email address so that I can put you on my blog (new entry) notification list. To go back to blog main page, click here.