Archive for the 'Eternal life' Category

Eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus (John 6:53-54, 60, 66)

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

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(image of Eucharist courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

It is not unusual to meet someone with an Anglo-Catholic understanding of the Eucharist who makes extreme claims like this:

If you are WRONG then you are divisive. When Jesus says this is my flesh/blood and you then say it isn’t….you are being divisive. One of us is right and the other is wrong.

No pointing fingers. He is flat out wrong and so are you if you don’t believe what Jesus said. I believe what Jesus said.[1]

I had made the comment to another person online:[2]

The Roman Catholic New Advent exposition of ‘The real presence as a fact’ states: ‘The whole structure of the discourse [John 6] of promise demands a literal interpretation of the words: “eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood”‘ (The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist).

Interpreting it literally sure sounds to be closer to being a vampire.

A. You are non-believers if you don’t accept what I believe about the teaching on Jesus’ body and blood.

This fellow became even more dogmatic:

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day” [John 6:52-54]. Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him [John 6:66].

The Jews questioned Him and you can see what he told them. Now you are questioning Him. I think he has the same message for you. They walked away and so are you. How sad.

clip_image004So I Tom55 say to you non-believers what Jesus told the Jews….VERY TRULY I TELL YOU IT IS HIS FLESH AND BLOOD. Walk away if you want. It won’t effect (sic) my salvation

As we know “This is a hard saying so who can listen to it?”  Apparently those of you who don’t believe what Jesus said (blue font emphasis added)[4].

So those who don’t accept his sacramental view of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his flesh are non-believers who don’t believe what Jesus said.

Really? Or is this tom55, the interpreter, imposing his view on the biblical text? Could Tom be engaging in eisegesis instead of exegesis of John 6:53-54?

See the article, ‘What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis?[5]

Now let’s do some checking, using contextual interpretation of Scripture.

B. Which is the correct interpretation?

Let’s check who is really right or wrong. Could this be a classic example of misinterpretation because of failure to observe the context?

John 6:47-58 (ESV) states:

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread[a] the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live for ever.”

C. Meaning of eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood

1. Let us deal with the meaning of vv 53-54,[6] which states,

53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’.

Here, Jesus repeats a truth he stated as the second part of v. 51, ‘If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever’. Note the emphasis in v. 53, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man … you have no life in you.’ Now v 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh … has eternal life’.

2. What will be the result of this? ‘I will raise him up on the last day’ (v 54).

3. Who is the one whose flesh is eaten? He has the title of ‘the Son of Man’ (v. 53). Yes, he is a fleshly human being – a man – but God has placed his seal of approval on him (Jn 6:27).

4. So the meaning is that the Son of Man is a title given to Jesus, but it does not overlook the fact that he is a flesh and blood human being. The supreme revelation of God is through Jesus, the Son of Man. Unlike any other fleshly human being, he has the amazing ability to grant a person eternal life if that one ‘eats’ of him.

5. ‘Drink his/my blood’ is added in vv 53 & 54. The Jews objected strongly to this statement (see v 51). Why? The Law of Moses forbade the drinking of blood (see Gen 9:2-4 ESV). So to drink the blood of the Son of Man was offensive to them.

6. John 6:54 & 40 have a close connection:

(a) v. 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’, and

(b) v. 40, ‘For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day’.

clip_image006The only major difference between these two verses is eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking his blood vs. looking to the Son and believing in Him. We come to an obvious conclusion of interpretation: The eating the flesh and drinking the flood is a metaphorical way of referring to looking to the Son and believing in the Son. How come? The result of both activities is the same – receiving eternal life and being raised on the last day.

7. This caused the eminent church father, St. Augustine of Hippo, to state: ‘Believe, and you have eaten’ [Tractate 25.12 (John 6:15-44)]. This is a concise summary of the teaching of John 6:53-54.

8. There are no indications in John 6:53-54 that this refers to the Lord’s Supper. If we make it refer to the Eucharist, it means that one of the things necessary to receive eternal life is to participate in the Lord’s Supper to eat the body and drink the blood. This would amount to works religion which is antithetical to New Testament Christianity (Eph 2:8-9 ESV).

9. There are cannibalistic overtones if one accepts the literal body and blood instead of the metaphorical meaning that points to looking to Jesus and believing in Him to receive eternal life.

10. When John stated, ‘And I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:40, 54), it demonstrates that eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally does not confer immortality/resurrection at the last day. The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is not designed for immortality. However looking to the Son and believing in Him are for that purpose.

D. How to add confusion: Tom’s responses

This fellow added bewilderment with his deliberate distortion of what I wrote. This is his answer to the 10 points above. [7] I’ll reply as Oz[8] between each point to determine if he had understood what I wrote and responded accurately:

1. Thank you for making my point. I agree with you. “Jesus repeats a truth” which means it was important which is why he repeated it.

Oz: He has not known the truth to which I referred. I’ll repeat what I stated: Jesus repeats a truth he stated as the second part of v. 51, ‘If anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever’. Note the emphasis in v. 53, ‘Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man … you have no life in you.’ Now v 54, ‘Whoever feeds on my flesh … has eternal life’.

The truth repeated is this: When Jesus said anyone was to eat his flesh, it meant that it was the means of receiving eternal life, living forever. It was not referring to eating Jesus’ literal flesh but to living forever through faith in Jesus Christ. To eat his literal flesh then or now was impossible. He was not dead when he said this. After his death, there was no literal flesh to consume (and so to avoid the charge of cannibalism).

This demonstrates that Tom is so entrenched in his Roman Catholicism of interpreting the eating of the flesh and drinking of the blood as literal that he cannot understand the context is referring to a metaphor for receiving eternal life.

What’s a metaphor? A metaphor is ‘a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in drowning in money); broadly: figurative language’ (Merriam-Webster Dictionary. s v metaphor).

2. And the result of this truth is ‘I will raise him up on the last day’

Oz: The result of eternal life is that the believer will be raised up at the last day. The result of eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally is not being raised up. The resurrection at the last day is dependent on a person receiving eternal life before that person’s physical death.

3-4-6 is double speak, confusing and rubbish

Oz: This is an offensive way of addressing me and does not deal with the content of what I wrote. Therefore it is a red herring fallacy of a reply.

What did I say in #3? I referred to the one whose flesh was eaten had the title of ‘the Son of Man’ (v. 53). While on earth, he was a man of flesh and God approved him (Jn 6:27). What’s double speak, confusing and rubbish about that? I know I needed to explain further the meaning of the Son of Man. To explain the meaning of this title for Jesus, see What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of Man? (gotquestions.org).

In #4 I continued with the emphasis that the Son of Man title for Jesus does not overlook his being a flesh and blood human being. This amazing, fleshly Son of Man has the ability to grant anyone eternal life if he/she ‘eats’ of him, i.e. eats = has faith in him.

My point at #6 of the close connection between John 6:40 and 54 was not explained well enough by me. The close connection is that those who look to the Son and believe in Him have eternal life (John 6:40) and that’s the message of John 6:54 except that Jesus uses the metaphor of eating his flesh and drinking his blood to have eternal life.

5. You are right about the Jews and it being abominable to them. They walked away and then Jesus doubled down on what he said. He didn’t clarify and say it was a metaphor or a symbol. He let them walk away and asked his Apostles if they were going to walk. IT WAS A HARD SAYING!! They didn’t believe him….. Just like you don’t.

Of course the Jews would object to the eating of flesh and drinking of blood that Jesus used (see my comment in #5) because they didn’t understand the metaphor Jesus was using. This is not a rubbish of an explanation but a fact. If anyone reads John 6:53-54 in a literal fashion, they would find it abhorrent. It was a hard saying because it would require the Jews to believe in the Son of Man to receive eternal life. They were not near ready to do that.

7. I am glad you brought up Augustine. Like a good protestant you only quoted what fit your belief. Here is more of what he said:

“I promised you, who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord’s table. . . . That bread that you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the blood of Christ” (Sermons 227).

“What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ. This has been said very briefly, which may perhaps be sufficient for faith; yet faith does not desire instruction” (ibid., 272).

“Nobody eats this flesh without previously adoring it” (Explanation of the Psalms 99).

“He took flesh from the flesh of Mary . . . and gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation. . . . We do sin by not adoring

Oz: Like a good Roman Catholic you did two things:

(1) You ignored the quote I gave from Augustine, ‘Believe, and you have eaten’ [Tractate 25.12 (John 6:15-44)]. Augustine knew exactly what John 6 was referring to with the eating and drinking. It dealt with believing in Jesus.

(2) You quote some other examples from Augustine and then don’t understand that Augustine used further metaphors to explain his position. These metaphors are the ones you have highlighted:

  •  That bread … is the body of Christ’.
  •  That chalice … is the blood of Christ’.
  •  The bread is the body of Christ and the chalice is the blood of Christ’.
  •  gave us the same flesh to be eaten unto salvation’.

Every one of those examples is a metaphor, just like when Jesus said,

  • ‘I am the door’ (John 10:9 ESV). He was not a literal door.
  • ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12 ESV). He was not a literal, physical light.
  • ‘You are the salt of the earth’ (Matt 5:13 ESV). Christians are not literal salt.

clip_image008The problem Tom runs into is that his RCC fixation on literal flesh and blood will not allow him to see that the context is using these metaphors as believing, in order to receive eternal life and to be resurrected at the last day.

8. During the Lord’s Supper, Jesus said “this is my body/blood do this in remembrance of me” and your theory there are no indications John 6:53-54 it refers to the Lords Supper?? You TWISTED that so much it broke!!!

Oz: No, Tom, I have ‘twisted’ nothing. I have read the verses in context and there is not a word in John 6 to indicate a thing about the Lord’s Supper. There is not a word that Jesus was here referring to the Eucharist – not a single word.

9. Look up the definition of the word cannibalism.

Oz: Why didn’t you provide me with that definition, Tom?

Look again at what I wrote at #9: ‘There are cannibalistic overtones if one accepts the literal body and blood instead of the metaphorical meaning that points to looking to Jesus and believing in Him to receive eternal life’.

What’s the definition of cannibalism? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s first definition is that cannibalism means ‘the usually ritualistic eating of human flesh by a human being’ (s v cannibalism).

What I wrote was true to the definition. It is Tom’s position that plays into the overtones of cannibalism in the ‘ritualistic’ eating of the flesh and blood of a human being – Jesus.

10. Makes no sense.

Oz: Perhaps my explanation was not as clear as it ought to have been. I wrote at this point: When John stated, ‘And I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:40, 54), it demonstrates that eating the flesh and drinking the blood literally does not confer immortality/resurrection at the last day. The Lord’s Supper/Eucharist is not designed for immortality. However looking to the Son and believing in Him are for that purpose.

clip_image010This is what I meant: To be able to speak of resurrection at the last day (John 6:40, 54), one has to have received eternal life. Therefore, what John is stating in using the metaphor of eating flesh and drinking blood is to give a picture of how to receive eternal life. To engage in physical eating of human flesh and drinking human blood does not bring eternal life that leads to last day resurrection. What does do this? Looking to the Son and believing in him.

That’s exactly what John was teaching in John 6:40, 54. He was not dealing with a literal eating of flesh and blood but referred to a metaphor of eating flesh and blood that was designed to represent the faith in Jesus to receive eternal life.

E. John 6:60, 66: Why did many of Jesus’ disciples desert him?

Let’s deal with two verses that Roman Catholics sometimes use to support their claim that John 6:53-54 refers to the bread and the wine literally becoming the flesh and blood of Jesus when the Eucharist is celebrated. Tom indicated in his statement about John 6:66 that those who don’t believe this refers to literal flesh and blood are regarded by him, a Roman Catholic, as non-believers (see above).

Those verses are:

  • John 6:60 (ESV), ‘When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”’ and
  • John 6:66 (ESV), ‘After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him’.

1. Who were these disciples?

You will note from John 6:67 (ESV), the context of John 6:66, ‘So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?”’ So the ‘disciples’ of John 6:66 are separate from the Twelve.

Who were these disciples who were not among the Twelve? The larger context from John 6:59 infers that they were Galileans (from Capernaum) and were from a larger group of disciples who followed Jesus. A sifting of the larger group of disciples began to take place here (John 6:60, 66). Verse 66 says ‘many of his disciples turned back’. It does not say that all of his extra disciples deserted him; however, many did. We do know that of the number who remained true to Jesus, there were more than 500 brothers and sisters who assembled to meet the risen Jesus after his resurrection, according to 1 Cor 15:6 (ESV).

2. How did the disciples respond to Jesus?

According to John 6:60, the disciples (not the Twelve) reacted with skleros to Jesus’ message. They, figuratively, reacted in words that were ‘hard, harsh, unpleasant’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:763.1.b). Lenski describes the skleros reaction as ‘“stiff,” dried out and hard, like a twig that has become brittle. The word does not here mean dark and difficult to understand but objectionable, offensive, impossible to accept and to believe’ (Lenski 1943:504-505).

In John 6:60, where it states, ‘This is a hard saying’, the Greek, ho logos houtos (Lit. the saying this), we need to comprehend that this refers to the entire Bread of Life discourse (John 6:22-59). What offended them and caused the stiff, unbending, harsh reaction? In this discourse there seems to be four main issues about which they reacted (stated by Carson 1991:300):

(a) They were more interested in food (6:26), Jesus’ becoming a political king (6:14-15), and manipulating the miraculous (6:30-31), than in dealing with the spiritual realities of eternal life.

(b) They were unprepared to give up their personal, sovereign authority, even in Christian matters. So they did not take the first steps of genuine faith (see 6:41-46).

(c) What particularly got up their noses was Jesus’ claim that he was greater than Moses and was sent by God and uniquely qualified to give life (John 6:32ff., 58), and

(d) The stark metaphor of eating the flesh and drinking the blood (John 6:53-54) was offensive to them.

Those who consider that in John 6:60, 66, John is speaking in terms of the human body or humanity, have a general objection that this is referring to the ‘the idea of eating and drinking the human nature of the one whom these disciples saw standing before their eyes like any other man’ (Lenski 1943:505). This is how the Roman Catholics interpret it – as literal body and blood. Tim Staples gives his RC explanation:

When we examine the surrounding context of John 6:53, Jesus’ words could hardly have been clearer. In verse 51, he plainly claims to be “the living bread” that his followers must eat. And he says in no uncertain terms that “the bread which I shall give . . . is my flesh.” Then, when the Jews were found “disput[ing] among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’” in verse 52, he reiterates even more emphatically, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you”….

Moreover, when we consider the language used by John, a literal interpretation—however disturbing—becomes even more obvious. In John 6:50-53 we encounter various forms of the Greek verb phago, “eating.” However, after the Jews begin to express incredulity at the idea of eating Christ’s flesh, the language begins to intensify. In verse 54, John begins to use trogo instead of phago. Trogo is a decidedly more graphic term, meaning “to chew on” or to “gnaw on”—as when an animal is ripping apart its prey (Staples 2010).

However, the wider context (as I have tried to show in this article) demonstrates that the eating of the flesh and drinking the blood is used as a metaphor to demonstrate the nature of belief in Jesus that leads to eternal life and the resurrection at the end of the world, i.e. ‘I will raise them up at the last day’ (John 6:54 NIV).

3. Alleged disciples do not make Christian believers

Since many of Jesus’ disciples here found his teaching to be harsh, the question needs to be asked: Were these ‘disciples’ true believers who became hardened by his message and stiffly resisted it, or were they really unbelievers who gave up pursuing Jesus? Carson explained:

“Disciples” must be distinguished from “the Twelve” (cf. vv. 66-67). More importantly, just as there is faith and faith (2:23-25), so are there disciples and disciples. At the most elementary level, a disciple is someone who is at that point following Jesus, either literally by joining the group that pursued him from place to place, or metaphorically in regarding him as the authoritative teacher. Such a “disciple” is not necessarily a “Christian”, someone who has savingly trusted Jesus and sworn allegiance to him, given by the Father to the Son, drawn by the Father and born again by the Spirit. Jesus will make it clear in due course that only those who continue in his word are truly his ‘disciples’ (8:31). The ‘disciples’ described here do not remain in his word; they find it to be hard teaching…. These “disciples” will not long remain disciples, because they find Jesus word intolerable (Carson 1991:300).

The conclusion is that John 6:60 and 66 refer to a bunch of disciples (not the Twelve) whose faith was so frail or non-existent that they found it easy to drift away when they couldn’t tolerate the stiff, hard, harsh or unpleasant teachings of Jesus in his whole Bread of Life discourse. Therefore, they did not continue in his teachings and can be written off as his disciples.

F. When will the supply run out?

One fellow asked these two brilliant questions:

Regarding the eating and drinking of “Jesus’ flesh and blood” being ‘literal’, how long will it be before it has all been consumed and none remains?

Or is it not that ‘literal’?[9]

G. Conclusion

In context, the meaning of John 6:53-54 is easy to discern. It has to do with obtaining eternal life and being raised at the last day. Therefore, it could not refer to the literal eating of Jesus’ body or drinking of Jesus’ blood. It is a metaphor for believing in Jesus.

Image result for clipart believeIt does not refer to a sacramental view of the Eucharist. Therefore, those who disbelieve in the literal meaning of the body and blood of Jesus are not non-believers but are Christians who correctly interpret these two verses in context. This is a classic example of how eisegesis can overcome a passage and cause it to become void of sound exegesis.

It is important to believe what Jesus stated but the meaning of some of his statements are sometimes misconstrued because of lack of knowledge of the culture from 2,000 years ago or failure to engage in careful hermeneutics in context. That’s the issue with tom55. He has failed to interpret contextually and then has labelled people who don’t believe as he believes, as non-believers. He thus has become a dogmatic extremist in his approach to other believers.

Augustine summarised the biblical content well: ‘Believe, and you have eaten’.

It was expected that a Roman Catholic would distort this metaphorical meaning of eating the flesh and drinking the blood to indicate believing in Jesus to receive eternal life. He could not get out of his fixation with a literal eating and drinking, which makes no sense in context or throughout Scripture.

As for the disciples who deserted Jesus, these were not the Twelve but part of a larger group of followers who may not have been believers. However, there was a separation of the wheat from the weeds in discerning true believers from the false.

H. Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature [10]. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Carson, D A 1991. The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England / Grand Rapids, Michigan: Inter-Varsity Press / William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 The Wartburg Press; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Staples, T 2010. What Catholics believe about John 6. This Rock 21(6), November. Available from Catholic Answers (1996-2016) at: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-catholics-believe-about-john-6 (Accessed 1 September 2016).

I.  Notes


[1] Christianity Board 2012. In Reference To CyBs Statement of Faith – Christian Forum (online), tom55#251. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/17009-in-reference-to-cybs-statement-of-faith-christian-forum/page-9 (Accessed 20 August 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#250.

[4] Ibid., tom55#252.

[5] Got Questions Ministries 2002-2016. What is the difference between exegesis and eisegesis? (online) Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html (Accessed 20 August 2016).

[6] Many of the following points are based on Carson (1991:296-297).

[7] Ibid., tom55#254.

[8] My response is at ibid., OzSpen#257.

[9] Ibid., Oneoff#256.

[10] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 September 2016.

Jesus as the one way, except ….

Monday, August 8th, 2016

Jesus Is The Way

By Spencer D Gear PhD

A skeptic about Jesus as the only way to salvation showed up on Christian Forums.net. He wrote:

I was born again in 1970, worked with Campus Crusade for Christ, attended Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, and have been waist-deep in theology for many, many years. So, yeah, I’ll match “Christian credentials” with other posters, if that’s important to you.
Do I believe my statement, “Pretty soon the category of people ….”?

Yes, I do. The exceptions pretty much reduce the doctrine to “the only way, except when …,” which is quite different from “the only way.” It strikes me as slightly bizarre that the hardline “only way” folks are willing to consign all Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims, not to mention Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, to Hell, while carving out exceptions for those who have not reached the fictional age of accountability or are mentally disabled. (True hardliners, of course, permit no exceptions – so at least their theology is consistent, albeit repulsive).??[1]

My reply was:[2]

Key with Jesus name on itGod does not talk of exceptions; that is human language to try to explain what seems unreasonable to us when we deal with God’s kingdom and who should enter. God’s language is that he has made provision for the salvation of certain people in His ways. I have addressed this as it relates to children in, Children and heaven.
Now to your view that Jesus as the ‘only way’ consigns Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons & JWs to hell. So did God mean it when he said,

‘You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them’ (Ex 20:3-5 ESV)?

Yes, he did mean it and if the nation violated God’s laws they suffered the consequences. This is because God is a jealous and holy God who will not tolerate other gods of worship. He’s the same God in OT and NT – in spite of what some higher critics want to say about the alleged differences.
Those who do not submit to the Trinitarian Lord God are serving ‘other gods’ and such worship is forbidden if one wants to get into God’s kingdom. You’ll probably label me as a hardliner. The fact is that I want to remain faithful to Scripture and the one who said his people are to have no other gods, is the same one who said that Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6 ESV) and that there is salvation in no other person than through Jesus (Acts 4:12 ESV).

A.  The ‘only way’ is a fabrication

He stated:

Do I consider that Jesus as the only way to salvation to be “hollow” and/or a fabrication?

No, I suspect that the conventional doctrine is probably fundamentally misguided, meaning that we are not fully grasping what Jesus meant. (I am admittedly troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation, but I realize that concerns about inerrancy are not permitted at this site.) I will not be surprised at all to meet hordes of people in Heaven whom the hardline “only way” folks would not now recognize as Christians at all. On the other hand, I will not be shocked if the most hardline “only way” folks are entirely correct and even infants are consigned to Hell – nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be. On all of these potentially repulsive doctrines, my position is simply that we will eventually see that the end result is worthy of the Creator of the Universe.?[3]

Knock KnockThe fundamental doctrine of Jesus as the only way to salvation is not misguided, as you suggest, but is based on God’s holiness and perfection in determining who should be saved and how they should be saved and enter His presence.

Seems to me that your Jesus is one of syncretism who allows anyone into his kingdom because the hardline ‘only way’ Jesus is too narrow minded for a syncretistic view.
You claim that you are ‘troubled by how many of the really puzzling and divisive doctrines have their roots in John and Revelation”. Acts 4:12 (ESV) is not in John’s writings. Neither is Acts 13:26 (NIV), which provides this insight, ‘Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent’. God-fearing people have received the message of salvation.

Acts 10:43 (NIV) confirms: ‘All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name’. They believe in Jesus for salvation. Then they become Christians and are no longer Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Shintoists, pagans, New Agers, JWs, Mormons, secularists, atheists, agnostics, etc. They become born-again Christians who have received Jesus as the only way to salvation.

B.  An area of agreement

However, there is one area in which I would agree with you: ‘Nothing requires God to be the sort of God we might like Him to be’. There will be God-fearers who make it into God’s kingdom whom we would never know how they came to fear God. However, I dare not make ‘one way’ Christians into hardliners who are unreasonable. Those who believe Jesus is the ‘only way’ to salvation are following what Scripture teaches.
God doesn’t dance to your or my tune. He sets the boundaries for who is in and who is out of the kingdom. From the teaching available to us, salvation through Jesus Christ alone is the only way to become a Christian (John 14:6 ESV; Acts 4:12 ESV).

C.  One way in other religions

It is a fallacy to think that evangelical Christianity is for hardliners who require Jesus as the one and only way to salvation.

Have you checked out these other religions and what they consider as the way to enlightenment and Paradise? See my articles:

bronze-arrow-small  Is Islam a religion of peace at its core?

bronze-arrow-small  Visualization and Affirmation

bronze-arrow-small The dangers of Eastern meditation

Take a read of these other articles that demonstrate that Christianity is not the only faith that promotes a narrow way:

designRed-small  Why Hinduism is the “Eternal way”, the true religion (Western Hindu);

designRed-small Buddhism, The ‘only’ way to enlightenment.

designRed-small Islam, ‘This is Islam – The Only Way for This Life and The Hereafter’ (The Islamic Bulletin).

DirectiondesignRed-small What about atheism? Its one way must exclude belief in God. See Atheist Foundation of Australia where it states that membership is open to ‘any natural person, who subscribes to the Objects of the Foundation and agrees to be bound by its Rules, may be admitted to membership by the Committee’. What are the objects of the foundation?

    i. To encourage and to provide a means of expression for informed free-thought on philosophical and social issues.

ii. To safeguard the rights of all non-religious people.

iii. To serve as a focal point for the community of non-religious people.

iv. To offer verifiable information in place of superstition and to promote logic and reason.

v. To promote atheism.

So even atheism has a one-way to membership through your acceptance of its 5 objects.

I wish you good fortune in trying to find the secret to the Google, Bing or Yahoo one-way formulas they use to search the Internet for your words.

D.  The Jesus’ one-way difference

What makes Jesus as the only way different to other world religions and philosophies? Briefly, these are fundamentals you will not find in other religions:

clip_image002 Forgiveness of all your sins (Matthew 6:14-15; 1 John 1:9).

clip_image002[1] Freedom from the guilt of sin (Psalm 103:8-12; Romans 8:1);

clip_image002[2] Eternal life that begins now and extends into eternity (Matthew 7:13-14; John 3:16; 1 John 5:13-14);

clip_image002[3] Ultimately this eternal life means life after death and ultimate Paradise in the presence of God (Luke 23:43; John 11:25; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; Revelation 21:1-27).

E.  Conclusion

Because other ways state they are the only way to various ultimate realities, which ones forgive sins and guarantee eternal life? This is the one that means changed lives in the present as well? It changes drunkard abusers into loving husbands whose life focuses on serving others.

Only one! That’s the Christ of Christianity who saves people from sin, cleanses the guilt, offers peace within and peace eternally, and an eternal relationship with God.

F.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2016. Apologetics & Theology, 24 June. ‘It’s so simple’, Runner#17. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/its-so-simple.65197/ (Accessed 25 June 2016).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[3] Ibid., Runner#17.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 8 August 2016.

Can people lose their Christian salvation?

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Free Gift

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

This has been a controversial subject throughout Christian history, but especially since the time of the Reformation. We have the Calvinists who defend the position that salvation cannot be lost and those who no longer continue to believe were not saved in the first place. Arminians respond, as I have below, that salvation can be lost when people commit apostasy.

Matt Slick’s view as a Calvinist is that ‘a Christian cannot lose his salvation’. And the author of Arminian Perspectives states that ‘we see that life abides in the Son and only those who presently “have” the Son “have” the life that abides in Him’.

What is apostasy?

Commit what? We don’t hear the word much these days. What is apostasy? In the English language, the definition given by dictionary.com is, ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc’.

A Christian-based definition is that apostasy is ‘a deliberate repudiation and abandonment of the faith that one has professed (Heb. 3:12). Apostasy differs in degree from heresy…. Perhaps the most notorious NT example is Judas Iscariot. Others include Demas (II Tim. 4:10) and Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20)’ (Whitlock, Jr. 1984:70).

Hebrews 6:4-6 (ESV) is clear enough for me:

4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

We also have 1 Timothy 1:18-20,

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, 20 among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (ESV).

So by rejecting faith and a good conscience, some have shipwrecked their faith. Is that too difficult to understand?

Then we have John 3:36,

Whoever believes [continues believing] in the Son has [continues having] eternal life; whoever does not obey [continues not obeying] the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains [continues remaining] on him.

What I have inserted in square brackets [ ] indicates the meaning of the Greek present tense. There is only eternal life for those who continue believing in the Son, Jesus, and continuing to remain in him. There is no eternal life for those who continue not to obey the Son.

That’s Bible and I cannot arrive at the position you advocate while these verses are in Scripture.

My understanding is that if a person deliberately chooses to apostasize from the Christian faits, he/she loses salvation. See my articles:

See also,

If you don’t agree that salvation can be lost, take a read of Charles Templeton’s, Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

Farewell to God : my reasons for rejecting the Christian faith

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Works consulted

Whitlock, Jr., L G 1984. Apostasy, in Elwell, W A (ed), Evangelical dictionary of theology, 70. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Does a Christian experience eternal life NOW?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

(courtesy public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Do you have to wait until death or Christ’s second coming (the resurrection of all people) to know you have

eternal life and can experience it? That’s how some on a Christian forum as seeing the issue. Here are a couple of examples:

There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it. A child with a million dollar trust fund has a million dollars, however, until he meets the conditions of that fund he doesn’t have possession of that fund. If you take notice, John is the only one who uses eternal life in the present tense, I believe this is significant.

My statement isn’t contradicted, it’s pretty straight forward that eternal life means one doesn’t die, if one dies he doesn’t have eternal life. What is there that is not correct. A claim that one is now in possession of eternal life is in contradiction with other passages of Scripture.[1]

Another responded:

That’s the rub, right here. We can know that we have been saved and believe it (You better!), and the enemy will whisper to you that you don’t, not good enough and so forth…and we shouldn’t listen to this…but at the same time we shouldn’t be lackadaisically over confident and should continue to seek to be closer to God, walk after the Spirit, OBEY, and witness for Him, all of the things that God wants and commands. Because you never know for sure until you are in possession of it, right?[2]

Eternal life now or later?

My first response to Butch was:[3]

I notice you didn’t use any Scriptures to support your position. I did.

That John should use the present tense is what God, the author of Scripture (2 Tim 3:15-16 ESV), states. You stated: ‘There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it’. This is not true in my case. I know I have one Toyota Camry and do you know what? I’m actually in possession of it.
Perhaps we are dealing with two different issues. We can continue to know NOW that we have eternal life (as 1 John 5:13 affirms) and we have the ultimate consummation of eternal life at Christ’s second coming.

[4]But 1 John 5:13 ESV says we are in possession now. We will have a new experience of eternal life when we are ‘absent from the body and present with the Lord’ at death and then at Christ’s second coming it will be the ULTIMATE.

His response was to come back with a few Scriptures. The post began:

If you worked today you earned money, correct? However, I’ll bet you have to wait until the check is written to obtain that money that is yours. You quoted 2 Tim 3:16, when Paul wrote that the Scriptures were the OT.

I didn’t post Scripture because I didn’t think it was necessary since by definition eternal life means one won’t die and we know Christians die. However, I can post Scripture.[5]

Contemporary analogies are not helpful

[6]My reply was that using another analogy is not helpful as I can come back with another view. If I work as a backpacker picking oranges, I get my wages the day I pick the oranges because he may not need me tomorrow or for the rest of the week. Analogy after analogy does not answer the issue.

So what if 2 Tim 3:16 (ESV) does refer to the Scriptures of the OT as theopneustos (breathed out by God)? They do refer to the OT. However, are you inferring that the Scriptures of the NT are not breathed out by God? We know what Peter said about Paul’s writings:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pt 3:15-16).?

Peter put Paul’s writings on the same level as ‘the other Scriptures’, presumably referring to the OT.

Meaning of eternal

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (Grudem1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

This we know about eternal life: ‘And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (I John 5:11-12 ESV).?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5 17), my eternal life began. The coming of eternal life into my being changed me from the inside out.

Henry Thiessen gives a wonderful summary of the biblical material:

By the eternity of God we mean His infinity in relation to time; we mean that He is without beginning or end; that He is free from all succession of time; and that He is the cause of time. That He is without beginning or end may be inferred from the fact of His necessary existence: He who exists by means of his nature rather than his volition must always have existed and must continue to exist for ever. That God is eternal is abundantly taught in Scripture. He is called “the eternal God” (Gen. 21:33); the Psalmists say: ‘From everlasting to everlasting thou art God’ (Ps 90:2) and ‘thou are the same, and they years have no end’ (Ps. 102:27). Isaiah represents God as ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity’ (Isa. 57:15); Paul says He ‘only hath immortality’ (1 Tim. 6:16.

He is free from all succession of time. Time is, as commonly understood, duration measured by succession (Thiessen 1949:122).

But the nature of that ‘eternal life’ is different from when I speak of the ‘eternal God’ who is from everlasting to everlasting. I expect to bask in the full benefits of that eternal life at death and in the eternal kingdom of God.

So, eternal life for the Christian has a beginning when I repent of my sin and receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Eternal damnation for unbelievers is confirmed at death and it goes on forever and ever. We know this from a verse such as

Matthew 25:46, ‘And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life’ (ESV).

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Notes


[1] Butch5#246, 15 July 2014, Christian Forums, ‘Losing salvation after getting saved’. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/losing-salvation-after-getting-saved.54616/page-13#post-956314 (Accessed 15 July 2014).

[2] Edward#248, ibid.

[3] OzSpen#251, ibid.

[4] OzSpen#253, ibid.

[5] Butch5#255, ibid.

[6] OzSpen#257, ibid.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.

Can people KNOW they have eternal life in this life?

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

John 3:36

(courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

Try some Internet Christian forums to get a taste of what’s out there in evangelical Christian land. I met one fellow who claimed:

One can know they are in the faith, however, one doesn’t receive eternal life until they are resurrected. I think we can all agree that Christians die, one who has eternal life doesn’t die.[1]

My response was as follows:[2] That is not what 1 John 5:13 states: ‘I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life’ (ESV).

  • ‘believe’ = the believing ones = a present tense participle, which means ‘the ones continuing believing in the present’.
  • ‘may know’ = perfect tense subjunctive mood = action in the past with continuing results in the present = may continue knowing.
  • ‘have’ = present tense = continuing to have in the present.

Therefore, it is very clear from the Greek tenses in this verse that any person who continues to believe in the name of the Son of God, Jesus, may continue to know that he/she continues to have eternal life – in this life.

One does not have to wait until the resurrection to know if one has eternal life. It can be known NOW in our present experience of believing in Jesus alone for salvation.
1 John 5:13 contradicts your statement that ‘one who has eternal life doesn’t die’.

People may KNOW in this life that they have eternal life. The ultimate will come in the next life when there is no more sin. I think this writer on the Forum is confusing knowledge of present experience of eternal life AND the ULTIMATE experienced at the resurrection of all people at Christ’s second coming.

The response was:

There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it. A child with a million dollar trust fund has a million dollars, however, until he meets the conditions of that fund he doesn’t have possession of that fund. If you take notice, John is the only one who uses eternal life in the present tense, I believe this is significant.

My statement isn’t contradicted, it’s pretty straight forward that eternal life means one doesn’t die, if one dies he doesn’t have eternal life. What is there that is not correct. A claim that one is now in possession of eternal life is in contradiction with other passages of Scripture.[3]

There were some who supported the position I was challenging, but my reply was:

I notice you didn’t use any Scriptures to support your position. I did.

That John should use the present tense is what God, the author of Scripture (2 Tim 3:15-16 ESV), states. You stated: ‘There’s a difference between knowing one has it and actually being in possession of it’. This is not true in my case. I know I have one Toyota Camry and do you know what? I’m actually in possession of it.

Perhaps we are dealing with two different issues. We can continue to know NOW that we have eternal life (as 1 John 5:13 affirms) and we have the ultimate consummation of eternal life at Christ’s second coming.[4]

After some more back and forth, I stated:[5]

Using another analogy is not helpful as I can come back with another view. If I work as a backpacker picking oranges, I get my wages the day I pick the oranges because he may not need me tomorrow or for the rest of the week. Analogy after analogy does not answer the issue.
So what if 2 Tim 3:16 ESV does refer to the Scriptures of the OT as theopneustos (breathed out by God)? They do refer to the OT. However, are you inferring that the Scriptures of the NT are not breathed out by God? We know what Peter said about Paul’s writings:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Pt 3:15-16 ESV).?

Peter put Paul’s writings on the same level as ‘the other Scriptures’, presumably referring to the OT.

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (based on Grudem 1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

Cross Button by wordtoall.org - For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

(Courtesy openclipart)

This we know about eternal life:

1 John 5:11-12 NET ‘And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. The one who has the Son has this eternal life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have this eternal life’.?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5:17) my eternal life began. But the nature of that ‘eternal life’ is different from when I speak of the ‘eternal God’ who is from everlasting to everlasting. I expect to bask in the full benefits of that eternal life at death and in the eternal kingdom of God.

He continued:[6]

Can you show me where eternal is in the Bible?
Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life.
You didn’t address any of the passages I posted. Jesus explicitly stated aionios life is in the age to come. How do you reconcile the passages I posted?

My reply was:

All you have to do to find out the number of times that ‘eternal’ is in the Bible is to go to Strong’s Concordance. My edition of the KJV Strong’s provides 47 examples of the use of ‘eternal’ in the Bible and only 2 of those are in the OT.

‘Please explain to me how a person who is going to die has eternal life’. That’s a begging the question (circular reasoning) logical fallacy. In your begging the question fallacy, your premise is that people who die do not have eternal life. Then, what do you conclude? Your conclusion is that this is indeed so. We can’t have a logical discussion when you do this ‘because simply assuming that the conclusion is true (directly or indirectly) in the premises does not constitute evidence for that conclusion’ (source).

Why didn’t I specifically address the passages you posted? The main reason is because we can’t have a logical discussion when you engage in a circular reasoning fallacy.

So what’s the meaning of eternal? There are a couple different meanings in Scripture. When applied to God, eternal means that God has no beginning, no end and no succession of moments in his being. Yet God sees events in time and acts in time and eternity (Grudem1994:168). Psalm 90:2 ESV puts it as ‘from everlasting to everlasting you are God’.

This we know about eternal life: ‘And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his  Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life’ (I John 5:11-12 ESV ).?

If we are ‘in his Son’, we currently have eternal life. The one who ‘has the Son’ currently has eternal life and the one who does not currently ‘have the Son of God does not have eternal life’.

I’m indeed grateful that when I was saved and Jesus gave me new life (2 Cor 5 17 ESV), my eternal life began. The coming of eternal life into my being changed me from the inside out.

Works consulted

Grudem, W 1994. Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Butch5#242, ‘Losing salvation after getting saved’, Christian Forums. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/losing-salvation-after-getting-saved.54616/page-13#post-956261 (Accessed 15 July 2014).

[2] This is my response as OzSpen#245 at ibid.

[3] Ibid., Butch5#246.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#251.

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#257.

[6] Ibid., Butch5#260.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.