Saturday, March 15, 2008

My Favorite Bible Verse

My favorite Bible verse of all time could be Ephesians 2:8-9, which is a foundational verse for the Protestant Reformation. Let me share it with you:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 – NIV; See, Romans 3:24 and Galatians 2:16).

So this verse is one that is a centerpiece for Protestants showing us that being a good person won't save you. And doing nice things does nothing to get us to heaven. Instead, it is God's grace that gives us salvation. Through our faith and trust that Jesus is our Savior, and that He paid the entire price for any punishment that is owed for the wrong things we have done in our life. I find an interesting question coming up from the second part of this verse, after the dash – namely, what is "the gift of God"? In the first portion of Ephesians 2:8, the "gift of God" could be one of three things: Is it God's grace, which is the subject of the preceding sentence? Or is our 'faith' given by God as a gift? Or it could even be our salvation that is the gift. Anyway, that's how my brain works – questions are more interesting than answers.

But let me raise one additional point from this verse – namely, that it is Christ's righteousness, not our own righteousness that provides us with our salvation. This point is made clear in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31, which says:

He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, and our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:30-31).

And so, Jesus is our righteousness, our good deeds, our attempts at righteous living is viewed by God as 'filthy rags' (Isa. 64:6). And so, Paul rightly points out that we cannot boast in our own righteousness, but we can only boast in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:31).

OK, I was just kidding. Allow me to make one more comment about the process of sanctification – is sanctification our responsibility? Sanctification is the process where born-again Christians (John 3:3) are turned from wretched sinners into people who grow to act more and more like Jesus. No again, I understand that sanctification is also the work of God. The verse I like to show this is Philippiansc2:12b-13, which says: "…work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." This verse shows that God works in a believer's desires and their will to act the way God desires. And so, as we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, my take away thought as we close Lent is this - if God gives us His Son in payment for our sins, and gives us a desire to appreciate all of what Jesus did, and is even completely responsible for cleaning up our actions through sanctification, can we take any credit for our growing obedience? I think the Apostle Paul already answered this: Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord! (1 Cor. 1:31, above). Have a happy and blessed holy week.


Edward Oleander said...

Did Ghandi go to Heaven? If he were to die today, would the current Dali Lama?


edward oleander said...

Ugh... Did I really mis-spell Gandhi's name? (sigh).... way past my bed time...

edward oleander said...

Ok... This actually relates as much to a comment in your response on the next thread, but since part of my problem is based on this thread, I put it here...

/rant/ = on

I'm going to get in my car and come over there and SPANK you!

How can you, in this post, say that the verse you love most is the one that sparked the Protty Reformation, then in the VERY NEXT post thank someone for "teaching" you to be a good little boy and keep your mouth shut when your "betters" are pontificating???????

The "teaching" this BSF person gave you is dead wrong, and you should know better. You and I spent a lot of years, dollars, and personal effort learning how to think. We both did a good share of that learning from the same college, and probably from some of the same instructors. I would not see that effort wasted by letting someone bludgeon you into a sheep-like, zombie state now. If I want to debate some bleating, dogmatic flack, I'll go argue with some Catholics.

So... why am I so worked up? The first reason is secular. ALL of Western civilization is based on the idea that it is not only your right, but indeed your DUTY to question authority. ALL authority, be it government or church NEEDS the scrutiny of those governed (and to a believer like yourself, the church is a form of government). No-one gets a free pass.

The second reason is spiritual, and backs up the first. Your church elders are human, and by definition capable of making mistakes. Look again to the Protty Reformation. Remember Martin Luther? You know, the dude with the hammer, nail, and shopping list of things the Roman Catholics were doing wrong. I think they named a church after him. Anyway... HE questioned the flawed judgment of humans, and sparked a revolution in the way God is seen to relate to his people. ML is today seen by millions as doing God's work by starting that revolution.

You pointed out Jesus attacking the false priests. We all know the story of the money changers in the Temple... Clear examples of standing up for what you believe in.

Even when I know it will be a polar opposite to my own view, by all the gods, I would hear YOUR opinion, based on YOUR studies, from YOUR own mouth, or rename this blog "What I've been told to think today."

It's not enough to tell us what your favorite verse is, or whether you're a A-mil or Pre-mil... You've put as much effort into your studies as some members of the clergy I've run into. I'm not trying to encourage ego or false pride, but you've earned the right to an opinion, on ANY church matter, and I think you have a god-given duty to express it, especially here on your own blog.

So... as a warm-up exercise, please answer my first question on this thread... did Gandhi go to Heaven? If he dies tomorrow, will the current Dali Lama go to Heaven?

/rant/ = off


tom wolff said...

Hey Ed,

Thank you for your rather mild-mannered rant. I've seen you do much worse (you remember John's friend Randy?) (grin) Ok, you asked a straightforward question - do people who do good things, even help humanity, do they get a free ride to heaven? As examples, you ask if Gandhi or the Dali Lama will go to heaven.

By your question you show that you don't understand why God came to earth in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. There were nice people around before Jesus came. So why did God feel that people trying to be nice and good wasn't enough?

God sent His Son, the prophesied Messiah, to deal with humanity's number one problem: sin. You apparently think of the universe as a giant cosmic scale - do a few more nice things than the things that you do that hurt people, and you win the prize. The prize being eternity in heaven with God. But as my favorite Bible verse teaches. that's not how we get to God.

I'm sure you know the famous verse John 14:6 - Jesus saying, I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. Why is Jesus the only way to God? Again, it is to deal with humanity's number one problem: sin.

The only way to God, and heaven for that matter, is to be pure, righteous and perfect. It is a standard that not one person has met (Romans 3:23). Yet God sent Jesus to lead the perfect life that we can't. And because Jesus was sinless, pure, righteous and perfect, His death on the Cross was the only payment that could be acceptable for the world's sins. Jesus answered humanity's sin problem by giving Himself as payment for the debt that is owed by our living sin-filled lives.

So as my favorite verse (Ephesians 2:8-9) makes clear, it is not by our works or anything that we do that saves us. It is the unearned Grace of God through faith alone in Christ alone. We can only be saved by what Christ DID, and not by anything we do. So are Gandhi and the Dali Lama saved? Who knows what took place (or is taking place) in their hearts. But God's Word tells us the process: it is the fear of the Lord that brings us knowledge. To fear the Lord, we must understand that living our lives without God, and making selfish choices in our actions separates us from God. And there is only one Way to overcome this separation: through Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross. By understanding our need for a Savior and accepting Jesus' full payment on the Cross, then by repenting of our sins the separation from God can be ended - we can start living lives with our Creator, the sort of lives God designed for us to live. A life with meaning and purpose. If Gandhi or the Dali Lama understood their sin-filled nature, and accepted Jesus' sacrifice in their place, and made Him their Savior, then yes, of course they are saved.

I hope this helps.