"Can I lose my salvation?" and other questions Christians might ask, part 3

You say one thing, other religions and ministers say something completely different, and both of you quote scripture to back you up. Why is there still such disagreement, and how can I know who is right when I’m no Bible scholar?

Well, it’s one thing, as I mentioned, for different groups to disagree on non-critical issues of doctrine. It makes no difference whether you, I ,or someone else is right where they're concerned. The crucial thing is to be absolutely certain your salvation theology is correct. If any of you remembers what LP records are, I’m going to start sounding like a broken one because I have to reiterate a few points.

When it comes to salvation, there will ultimately be two ways of approaching the issue and interpreting the scriptures. The first way is through the eyes of the Law--i.e. from a philosophy of salvation through works. Many “Christian” religions and scholars fall into the trap of interpreting scripture in this way. Those who interpret scripture through the Law will always conclude that a person must literally participate in his own salvation by meeting some standard of behavior in order to either get saved or to stay saved. Such a person might see verses in scripture along the lines of: He that doeth righteousness is righteous as He is righteous; For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; If any man be a worshipper of God and doeth his will, him he heareth, etc., and these scriptures will always reinforce his conclusion that a person’s salvation hinges not on faith alone, but ultimately on how righteously he lives.

The other means of intrepreting scripture will be through the eyes of Grace--i.e. through the understanding and acceptance that salvation is a free gift that cannot be earned, obtained, or even kept by any means other than faith and faith alone. Thus, when someone views those same scriptures through the eyes of Grace, he first of all dismisses any thought that they are commanding him to observe a standard of righteous living in order to be secure in his salvation. He knows that the truth of salvation and true righteousness is obtained not by obedience, but, as Paul says in 1st Corinthians 2:17--For therein is the righteousness of God revealed by faith to faith, and that this faith will produce real obedience. Paul later goes on to show how most of the Jews of his day, and how “Christians” in our own time, still fail to understand the truth of the scriptures they read because they refuse to interpret the scriptures through recognition of Jesus Christ through faith, but instead through the Law:

King James Bible

New Jerusalem Bible

But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament*; which veil is done away in Christ.

But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart.

Nevertheless, when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

2nd Corinthians 3:14-16

* There was no New Testament yet--but the principle is obvious, interpretation of the Bible will always be flawed until one comes into a real relationship with Christ through faith!

But their minds were closed; indeed, until this very day, the same veil remains over their reading of the Old Testament*: it is not lifted, for only in Christ is it done away with.

As it is, whenever Moses is read, their hearts are covered with a veil,

and this veil will not be taken away until they turn to the Lord.

2nd Corinthians 3:14-16

* There was no New Testament yet--but the principle is obvious, interpretation of the Bible will always be flawed until one comes into a real relationship with Christ through faith!

The situation is much like what I had to do when I was involved in the Occult--I had to first accept what the Bible said before I could truly see how wrong I was. It’s the same with those who interpret scripture through the Law--they must first repent of that attitude and accept the concept of gaining and keeping salvation through faith alone, apart from any good deeds or obedience to the Commandments--then they will understand how they were wrong in the past, and the scriptures dealing with Godly living will at last be understood in their proper context, or, at minimum, at least won’t be misunderstood.

In your own case, you’ll also have to decide which of the two philosophies on interpreting scripture you will hold to. If it’s through the eyes of the Law, here’s what will happen: You’ll conclude that faith might be a part of salvation, but you will still have to either “make up” for the sins you’ve done in the past or will do in the future by doing good deeds, or else you’ll have to live “good” enough to keep from losing your salvation. This brings up the question I dealt with earlier--just how good must you be to get saved or stay saved? You won’t be able to answer that so you’ll determine to do the best you can. You’ll never be able to do as well as you think you should, so you’ll often be frustrated as you see yourself blowing it and committing sin you know you shouldn’t. You’ll constantly doubt your salvation and worry that if you died right then you’d go to Hell because there’s too much sin in your life. When bad things happen you’ll assume it’s the judgment of God, or that God isn’t helping you out of the situation because of your sins. This is the best you can hope for! The other, more dangerous alternative, is that you will think you’re doing pretty well at being obedient, and eventually come to the point where you think you’re living righteously enough to be accepted by God. At that point you risk losing any salvation you might have had earlier since you’re now relying on your own righteousness to be accepted by God.

So how obedient should we be to the Commandments, then?

Wrong question. How obedient you are isn’t the issue; it’s why you should be obedient in the first place. We should try to live godly lives in response to the salvation we’ve been given--never in order to gain or retain salvation or else we defeat the purpose of the cross. If we have true salvation to start with, we will naturally want to live good lives, and the Holy Spirit will help us do so. If you have no desire to live a righteous life (no matter how badly you may be failing at it), then you must go back to the beginning and determine whether you have even truly placed your faith in Christ as savior to start with. Other than that, we should be 100% obedient to all the commands of Scripture. Naturally, we aren’t, which is why we need the blood of Christ to wash away our sins.

It may sound as if I’m dismissing obedience as a “take it or leave it” option for the Christian. This is not the case. My point is to have you be obedient for the right reason. Obedience out of fear of losing one’s salvation, or obedience as a means of obtaining salvation brings you under the bondage of Works. While failure at striving to be obedient to God’s commands can indirectly (in my opinion) cause a loss of salvation through one’s heart becoming heardened through the deceitfulness of sin as I quoted from Hebrews in an earlier section, one should be obedient in response to the salvation they’ve been given, in the same way James says someone should produce good works--not as a means to gain salvation, but as evidence of the salvation they already have. Again, it’s the heart that matters.

What exactly is the “Law” you make reference to? What’s it got to do with us today?

The “Law” refers to the Law of Moses, given in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Leviticus. Mosaic Law started with the 10 Commandments, but eventually grew to a total of 613 and became known as “the Law” or “Torah” (meaning instruction) to the Jews. Some of these laws came directly from God, and some--at least those regarding divorce--came from Moses. Part of the Law no one could possibly find fault with, and part of the Law (to us) might sound somewhat pointless (such as a prohibition against eating lobster). The purpose of the Law was to show Men that we needed a savior since we could never be obedient enough to follow it fully enough to earn salvation. Jesus Christ came to earth, followed the Law perfectly, meeting the requirements set down in it for obtaining salvation through righteous living, and passed the benefits of His sinless life on to we who believe in Him. All this we know from scripture. What we may not be so certain of is what part the Law is still to play in our lives today.

Learned rabbis have spent entire lifetimes trying to unravel all the mysteries wrapped within the Law. I’ve spent years in study of it myself, and I can’t honestly say I’m certain in my mind what part it’s meant to play today. Below are several philosophical viewpoints, one of which might place the Law in its proper perspective for us.

1. We, like the Jews it was given to, are to observe all of the Commandments that could possibly apply in this day in age (around 100) exactly as written. (Possible but unlikely.)

2. Only Jews (including Christian Jews) are to observe the Law while Gentile believers are to observe the 10 Commandments, since the Law is meant specifically for Jews, and embodies principles intended to maintain racial and spiritual purity. (Possible--especially in light of ancient rabinnic traditions which assert that all 70 known nations at the time heard the voice of God give the 10 Comandments, but the remainder of the Torah was given only to the Jews.)

3. All are to live not by the letter of Mosaic Law, but by the general principles taught in it that are most clearly articulated in the 10 Commandments. (Probable.)

4. All are to live by the Law of Moses, but Jesus showed us how to follow the Law properly. (Possible.)

5. The Law of Moses was nailed to the Cross with Christ, and once He fulfilled it, the Law passed away and now holds no place in the life of a Christian. (Possible but unlikely, especially as the book of Ezekiel indicates that there will be a Millennial Temple conducting animal sacrifice.)

The Law also helps show us the error of thinking we can keep our salvation through righteous living instead of by faith alone. Each year, a variety of animals were sacrificed and the sins of the people were covered. In effect, the slate was wiped clean and the people started from a standpoint of salvation, which they could keep by obedience to the Law for the coming year. This they couldn’t do any better than we can, and so they “lost” their salvation by failing to live righteously enough to meet God’s standard and had to have another sacrifice the following year.

Why do you pick on the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses so much?

Perhaps because they are the most visible proponents of their religion out there today. In the case of the Mormon Church, it is the fastest-growing denomination in the world. That scares me because it shows how ineffective we true Christians are at reaching a lost world. At the same time it speaks to how God’s truth bears fruit even when it is obscured by falsehood, for the Mormons do incredibly well at formulating an effective program to teach the principles of Godly living--better than most Christian denominations do. But here’s the problem: Let’s say I come to you and represent myself as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, seeking your acceptance of me and my denomination. You believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible, and when you ask about my idea of whom Christ is, I tell you He was a space alien who was created by DNA manipulation and then implanted into the Virgin Mary. After He died, his body was beamed up to the mother ship in orbit where he was cloned and brought back to life by alien revivification technology. Today He lives on by having had His brain engrams implanted into a cybernetic computer. Now--after hearing this, can you consider us both to be real brothers in Christ?

That’s the problem with the Mormon Church. The Jesus of the Book of Mormon is not the Jesus who existed outside of Eternity, who created the material universe with a word, and who died to redeem us from sin--he was a created being who was sired by God’s having sex with the Virgin Mary*, and, in fact, He is the brother of the Devil. The Jesus created by the Mormon Church, as written in their official theology, cannot save you from a Godless eternity--hence my hatred of Mormon theology, because you have legions of Mormons who sincerely love God and would make true, outstanding Christians if they would accept the Bible’s definition of truth over the contradictory “truth” offered by Mormon scripture.

The incredible thing is, I’ve been to more than one “Full Gospel” church that would damn Mormonism as a false Gospel but yet, albeit unconsciously, had nearly the same salvation theology as they do! Deception comes naturally to Mankind, and even we, as Christians who understand we’re saved by faith apart from good works, can easily lose sight of Biblical Christianity as Mormonism’s founders did.

I pick on the Jehovah’s Witnesses because they too are so visible and everyone knows them. They’re no worse than many other almost-Christian faiths, but their zeal in spreading their version of the Gospel, which draws many people into spiritual deception, again puts many of us true Christians to shame.

* This "sex" didn't literally take place on Earth but in a spiritual pre-existence which Mormons believe is the means by which human spirits are created prior to birth. Here is the way the LDS church deals with the subject:  When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the Father had begotten him in his own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. And who is the Father? He is the first of the human family; and when [Christ] took a tabernacle, it was begotten by his Father in heaven, after the same manner as the tabernacles of Cain, Abel, and the rest of the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve… (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, Page 102)

Does the Bible really claim that earth is only a few thousand years old? How can that be true?

The Bible indicates that humanity is around 6,000 years old. It is also possible to infer that our planet itself is likewise that “young”. Those who hold to this opinion believe that God created the earth in such a way that it had the proper “look” for a planet much older, similarly to how we might craft a new table and use various methods to make it resemble an antique piece. This idea is not quite as stupid as it sounds, and there is an abundance of evidence that could lend credence to this idea. (There is a good website which covers the subject in greater detail here: http://emporium.turnpike.net/C/cs/.) I personally lean toward the idea that earth is ancient as contemporary science suggests, but that Adam was created about 6,000 years ago as the Bible indicates. The first chapter of Genesis can be translated to support this idea when you consider that the phrase: And the earth was void and without form could be translated And the earth had become void and without form. Some scholars believe that there was a pre-Adamic civilization upon the earth eons ago which God destroyed, perhaps because it sided with Lucifer in the Great Rebellion. This is a possibility though hardly conclusive, and really has no bearing on our walk as Christians. But I mention the theory for those who may doubt the Bible because of the traditional preaching that earth is a recent creation.

What does the Bible say about divorce and remarriage?

It’s amazing how varied the preaching is out there on this subject. Philosophies range from extremely conservative, to extremely liberal.

To understand the Bible’s teaching on divorce, you must consider not only the words it contains, but the culture it was written for. Below are some facts to ponder:

The first person in the Bible to divorce his wife was Moses! He had married the wife of an idol-worshipping priest in his youth, and Exodus 18:2 suggests that he divorced her and sent her back to her father, probably because she was neither Jewish in race nor (yet) a convert to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (If you decipher the text of Exodus with an understanding of Jewish idioms, the phrase “sent her back” is a phrase denoting divorce, hence that conclusion.) The good news is, both she and her father eventually came to embrace the God of Moses, and Moses was reconciled with her, although he subsequently married a second wife.

Moses allowed a divorce by a husband’s writing out a paper and delivering it to his wife. She was apparently free to remarry after that. This is an important point to refute the position of those who teach that remarriage is not permissible!

Jesus, in the 10th chapter of Mark, shows disapproval with the idea of making divorce easy, and asserts that God intends for a couple to marry for life. He seems to indicate that someone who divorces a spouse with the intention of marrying someone else commits adultery. In Matthew 19, however, Jesus suggests that divorce is permissible for marital unfaithfulness. Paul, in the 7th chapter of 1st Corinthians, instructs Christians to stay married, but does say that a believer does not remain bound to his or her spouse in the event of abandonment. Presumably remarriage would be permissible in either case.

In all cases, the above passages were written to those already under the covenant of Judaism or Christianity. Nothing in the text suggests that those who were married and divorced prior to making a commitment to Christ are bound to the first marriage.

Also, remember that all these commands were written to those who could practice polygamy without that being considered adultery! Both in the Old and New Testament times some cultures practiced polygamy. The ancient Jews did so, and some converts to Christianity likewise practiced it. Paul doesn’t command them to get rid of all but one wife (although he does forbid polygamists to hold positions of authority in the church), and if we can infer from this that polygamy, while disapproved of in God’s eyes, could be practiced without being considered willfully living in sin, then it seems to stretch things a bit to say that a divorced individual commits adultery if he or she remarries.

Bottom line--the Bible seems to indicate that:

Christians who divorce their spouse, except for the cause of adultery or abandonment, are to remain unmarried or else reconcile.

A Christian whose non-Christian spouse commits adultery or abandons them may divorce and “is not under bondage” to that mate. To me, this means he or she is free to remarry.

Non-Christians are not bound by marriages undertaken prior to becoming Christians.

So far as physical abuse goes, I know of no minister who doesn’t feel that is an acceptable reason for divorce. The Bible, however, doesn’t mention abuse, so you’ll have to let your conscience be your guide so far as that goes.

Why do you base so much of your doctrinal understanding on what the Jews believed when they are the ones who rejected Christ?

Simply because salvation is of the Jews and To the Jews were entrusted the oracles of God, as Paul says. Virtually the entire Bible was written by and for the Jews, and was written in such a way that Jews would understand what was being written. To comprehend the Bible, you must approach it from the perspective of a Jew, not a Gentile. It is beyond the comprehension of most Christians how much peripheral scriptural truth has been lost because the Gentiles who took over the church allowed themselves to be deceived and used by Satan to remove all vestiges of Judaism from the faith in an attempt to distort the scriptures. Many Gentile “Christians” have persecuted the people of God for nearly 2,000 years. The “noble” Crusaders, for instance, herded Jews into their synagogues and burned them alive or forced them at swordpoint to receive baptism into Christianity. (But to be fair, let’s also admit that the Jews themselves have walked in their own spiritual pride, dismissing Gentiles and non-Jews as pagans, so neither Jew nor Gentile has truly walked in the love of God toward his fellow man.)

This dismissal of Jewish influence in the Church has caused our understanding of the scriptures to be flawed in many ways simply because Gentiles approach the science of Biblical interpretation without a cultural understanding of the background of what is being written, and rely on merely looking at a translation of the text to derive their doctrines from while passing over the understanding that the Jewish writers and audience of the intended passages would have possessed through the tradition and the teachings of the rabbis. Here are just a handful of truths that your Gentile pastor and Bible commentary have missed simply because they are ignorant of Jewish teachings and traditions:

The food of John the Baptist was not “Locusts and wild honey” but carob beans and wild honey. (The Hebrew word translated into Greek and then English as locust actually refers to a “locust tree” which is a carob tree). A Jew familiar with the Mishnah would have translated the word correctly since the Mishnah lists carob beans and honey as foods of Nazarites. Carob husks were also the “husks” fed by the Prodigal Son to the swine herd.

The cock that crowed thrice when Peter denied Christ wasn’t a rooster but a town crier of sorts. Chickens were treated as unkosher animals by the inhabitants of Jerusalem and weren’t allowed in the city any more than pigs were--let alone in the High Priest’s own courtyard!

John the Baptist didn’t inventing baptism; Jewish tradition asserts that Adam did, undergoing baptism after sinning in the Garden of Eden.

Jesus wasn’t literally born in the city of Bethlehem, but in a valley just outside of town. He was undoubtedly born in September during the Jewish Festival of Sukhot (or the Feast of Tabernacles). The word translated as manger can be traced back to the Hebrew as the word sukhah, meaning the temporary shelters erected during this festival. Had Jesus been born in Bethlehem proper He would have been disqualified from being our Passover lamb since the city of Bethlehem is just outside the range of distance a Passover lamb must be foaled in to qualify. However, the valley where local inhabitants set up their booths during Sukhot is just within the allowed distance. (This is why in some Gospels Jesus is born in a “manger” yet when the Wisemen visit they find Him in a “house”--by the time the Wisemen arrived in Bethlehem Mary and Joseph had returned home with relatives to a house inside the city of Bethlehem.)

In John’s Gospel the incident is recorded when a woman caught in adultery is brought before Jesus by the religious leaders for stoning. Jesus ignores them and writes in the dirt. Ministers, ignorant of Judaism, have no idea what He was writing and assume He was probably writing down the sins of those who brought the woman. A Jew would know that the day before this incident was the last day of the Festival of Sukhot, when Jesus in the Temple declared that anyone who is thirsty should come to Him and drink. During that festival the priests read all Old Testament passages that deal with water. Among them is a prophecy in Jeremiah 17 that the names of those who have rejected the source of Living Water shall be written in the earth. Jesus was thus fulfilling this prophecy by writing down the names of the priests who brought the woman to Him. These priests probably were the same ones who quoted that prophecy  the day before and they knew exactly what the implication of Jesus’ action was. Thus they left, one by one as He wrote down the names of those present, from the oldest to the youngest.

We can know that Judas was chronologically the oldest of Jesus’ disciples from his position during the Last Supper (actually a Passover seder). It is Rabinnic tradition for a rabbi holding Passover to seat his youngest disciple on his right (John) and his oldest on his left (Judas).

We can know about how many people were present at the Last Supper--around 20. (The Gospels record that two lambs were obtained for Passover--one lamb would feed about 10 people.)

We can know that Jesus during the Last Supper was undertaking a formal ritual of engagement for marriage with his disciples (the language including I go to prepare a place for you is part of the formal Jewish engagement ceremony liturgy).

Gentile scholars debate whether Paul had ever been married. A Jew would know there is no question he was since the language used about him (for instance his admission that he consented to the stoning of Stephen), coupled with his authority to persecute the church, clearly indicates he was a member of the Sanhedrin. To be a member of the Sanhedrin Paul would have had to have been married at some point in his life or he would be disqualified.

I could go on, but this gives you some idea of how our understanding and translation of the Scriptures has been perverted by rejection of Judaism’s roots in our faith. Fortunately the essential teachings have remained intact--but for many ritual Jewish ablutions mentioned in Hebrews 6!

Was Jesus crucified naked on the cross?

No. While crucifixion was usually done to a naked criminal, a little known fact is that the Romans were forced to make an exception to this rule in Judea to keep order because of the Jews’ outrage over public nudity. Thus, Jesus was crucified in a loincloth just as the movies portray.

What day was Jesus crucified on? Was it on Good Friday?

Once again this illustrates how even some simple questions are pondered over by “scholars” who are woefully ignorant of Judaism. John 18:28 reveals exactly on what day the crucifixion takes place--if you have even a basic understanding of the Torah. It will be observed that the priests* who have brought Jesus to Pilate refuse to enter Pilate’s quarters lest they be defiled because it is Preparation Day and they had not yet eaten the Passover meal. The Torah commands the priests to eat the Passover meal at sundown as the 15th day of the month of Nisan begins and Preparation Day ends. (Remember that the day in the Jewish calendar begins at sundown.) Thus, there is no question that Jesus is brought before Pilate and later crucified on the morning and afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, which in AD 30 fell on a Thursday. At 3 PM on the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan, the Passover lamb was slaughtered and this is also the time when Jesus gave up the ghost. (By the way, the Passover lamb is not a sin offering--it is a peace offering. Jesus was actually fulfilling several different sorts of sacrifices as he hung on the cross.)

In fact as you look at the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, he perfectly fulfills the role of the Passover lamb. He enters Jerusalem on Sunday morning and visits the Temple, driving out the money changers. He then spends four days teaching and being questioned by the religious leaders. This is His living counterpart of the fact that the Passover lambs were taken into the homes and examined for four days to assure they were pure enough for sacrifice on the fifth day--in Jesus’ case on Thursday.

* Also, it should be noted that the crowd who shout for Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus is made up--not of multitudes of Jews, but of the delegation of Pharisees and Sadducees who brought Jesus to Pilate.

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