Search Results For "Grace"

When the children of Israel were going into the Promised Land, God gave them a law. The law was part of His covenant relationship with them. But after Jesus came, many Jewish Christians wanted to know what role the law should continue to play in their lives. Were Christians obligated to keep the law? If not, what was to keep them from living sinfully? The apostle Paul boldly claimed that Christians “are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). Could that really be true? If so, what would that look like? What would that mean?

The Purpose of the Law

In Galatians 3:23-29, Paul explained that the law of Moses was a “paidagogos,” which is translated schoolmaster, tutor, or guardian. In the Greco-Roman world, the son of a wealthy man would be cared for by a paidagogos, a slave who was given the responsibility of watching over his master’s son. This guardian would watch over the boy constantly; taking him to school, keeping him out of trouble, guiding him, guarding him, and teaching him. In the life of a young boy, a paidagogos was a good thing. However, when the boy became a man, he no longer needed a paidagogos. He was set free from this tutelage.

Paul said the law was just like that in the life of Israel. It’s end-goal was to bring the nation of Israel to a state of maturity and faith, where they would accept Jesus as their Messiah. And once they came to faith in Jesus, like a boy who became a man, they would no longer need the law in the same way.

“Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Galatians 3:23-26).

A young boy does what is right because his guardian tells him to, but a man does what is right because he is an heir of his father’s household. When a young boy is under a guardian, he is just like a slave (Galatians 4:1-2). And Paul makes the point that the Jews were slaves under the law. But when Christ came, the law was lifted – at least for those who accepted Jesus as their Messiah – because that was the whole purpose of the law.

The son of a king doesn’t need a law to tell him to do the king’s will. The son of a king – in many ways – is exempt from the law, but he does the king’s will because he loves the king and because the king is his father. He does the king’s will because the king’s will has become his will. This is what being a Christian is all about.

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7).

Not Under Law But Under Grace

Paul has a very similar discussion with the church in Rome. He tells them that they are made right with God, not by keeping the law (which everyone had already failed to do), but by putting their faith in Christ. We are made right with God, because God is gracious and put forward His only begotten Son as a sin offering on our behalf.

In Romans 6, Paul anticipated the likely objections. He knew many wouldn’t accept this message of grace and not law, because they feared everyone would run amok. “If we’re not under Law,” they would object, “won’t everyone just go on sinning?”

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:1-4).

You cannot be a child of God, free from the burden of the law, so long as you still live to sin. That kind of a person is unconverted and is still a slave of sin. That kind of a person needs to be under law. But the true convert, has died to sin and has been baptized into the death of Christ.

Paul asks again, in verse 15, “Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?” And again answers, “By no means!” Through the power of the cross, and the work of God’s Holy Spirit, Christians have become slaves of righteousness. We do what is right, not because of a law written on stone tablets, but because we truly want to please our heavenly Father. Our hearts and minds have been converted by God’s grace.

The Bottom Line

God expects your entire life to be a grateful response to His grace. When your heart and mind are transformed by His mercies, you will know His will and will present your whole body to Him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). This won’t be motivated by law, but motivated by His grace.

When you live in response to the gospel and walk by the Spirit, your life will be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This kind of life not only does not violate God’s law, but it actually fulfills the law of Christ because you are loving others and helping to bear their burdens (Galatians 6:2).

It couldn’t be stated more clearly than this:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14).

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

I recently had a rather unfortunate debate on Facebook that revolved around a conversation I had with my son. I posted that I had told my son, people don’t go to heaven because they are obedient, they go to heaven because God is gracious and sent Jesus to die on the cross. Of course I wasn’t undermining the importance and necessity of obedience, but I was making the point that God saves us, “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). But it seems many are rather uncomfortable with that concept.

So I want to address the question, “Are we saved by grace or not?”

SAVED BY GRACE

What Does “By Grace” Mean?

There is so much confusion over the issue of grace. We all know there are those who abuse the word, acting as if grace is a license to sin or a freedom from obedience (Jude 1:4; Romans 6:1-7). Those kind of people clearly don’t understand God or His grace.

But on the other hand, there are Christians who seem to only talk about what grace is not. They seldom – if ever – talk about what grace is. They get very nervous when they hear, “Saved by grace.” They are quick to say, “Yeah, kind of, but not really!” They rush to dilute teachings on grace, for fear it might be “taken too far.”

Just so you know, when you hear the words “by grace” it just means something good is given that wasn’t earned or merited. So when you receive something good, it was either given by grace or by merit. Or as the apostle Paul puts in Romans 4:4, it is either a “wage” or a “gift.” It is that simple and there is no middle ground.

The air we breathe, for instance, is given to us from God. Is it given by grace or by merit? What could we possibly do to earn the air we breathe? It is laughable to think we could. Death and punishment are the ONLY wages we’ve earned from God (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Everything else is a gracious gift. When we fill our lungs with air we should say, “Thank you, God for graciously giving me air to breathe!”

It is absolutely impossible to take grace too far! Pervert it, yes! But take it too far, absolutely not! In fact, God desires to show us, “the immeasurable riches of his grace” (Ephesians 2:7).

Salvation by Grace?

This issue is most significant when it comes to salvation. Eternal life is either earned or it is given as a gift of grace. Scripture makes it clear it is the latter. In fact, those in the first-century who claimed to have earned eternal life by their obedience to the Law disqualified themselves from possessing it (Galatians 5:4).

If we’ve received salvation from God then it is either by grace or by merit. It is either deserved or undeserved. To say something like, “Salvation is by grace but not grace alone,” is to say it is somehow merited and unmerited at the same time. This not only makes no sense, but is entirely unbiblical. Listen to the word of God:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

All a person is saying when he says we are saved “by grace” is, our salvation is completely undeserved and unmerited. We deserve punishment, but because of what Jesus did at the cross we are able to receive eternal life. Salvation is “by grace.” That’s what God’s word says; don’t add to that or take away from it.

How Do I Receive the Gift?

The appropriate question then is, “How do I receive this gift?” The biblical answer is, “through faith.” Much like the word “grace,” the word “faith” is also very misunderstood.

Faith might best be understood as a “total surrender” to God. When we hear and believe that God is able and willing to save us from the horrible fate we deserve, we totally surrender ourselves to Him, trusting Him to save us from what we deserve.

Repenting and being immersed in water for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38) is how we “call on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16) and appeal to Him for “a clean conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). It is in this act of faith that we clothe ourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:27). It is at this point – and this point alone – that our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).

We come up from the water rejoicing (Acts 8:39) because it is by grace that we have been saved! NONE of it by merit, ALL of it by grace!

What About Obedience?

Does this mean we don’t have to obey? Of course not! That is an absolutely absurd suggestion!

It just means your obedience does not merit your salvation (that’s what “by grace” means). We obey because we are trusting in God to save us, both at our baptism and in our continually walking with Him in faith. Obedience is a matter of entrusting our souls to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19).

Disobedience, on the other hand, is how you reject the gift (see Hebrews 3:12-19). The gracious gift of salvation is either accepted by humble obedient faith or – at any point – rejected by stubborn and sinful pride:

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:26-29)?

Saying we are saved by grace does NOT negate the necessity of obedience. It does not mean there is nothing we must do to be saved or to remain in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It just means that even after all of our obedience, we will always be “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10) who are saved by God’s amazing grace and NOT by our own merit.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

P.S. If you’re interested, I’ve written an entire book on this issue, The Treasure Chest of Grace.

How to be the Church of Grace

Wes  —  January 14, 2015

The word “grace” appears over 100 times in the New Testament. One could easily say that grace is one of the most dominant themes of the New Testament. The apostle John began his gospel account by saying, “The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Therefore, it is only right for Christ’s church to be known as a people of grace. Or, in other words, the church of Christ should be the church of grace.

the church of grace

Here are three areas we need to focus on in order to be the church of grace that God would have us to be:

1. We Must Preach the Gospel of Grace

Grace could be defined as “God showering blessings on us, when we deserve for wrath to be showered upon us.” That’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Because God is so immeasurably gracious, He sent His Son to the earth to die for wretched man. Now, anyone who is in Christ, is showered with all the spiritual blessings of heaven (Ephesians 1:3). We don’t deserve to be called “sinless,” but we are sinless, because we are completely forgiven in Him. We don’t deserve to be called “holy,” but we are holy, because we are completely sanctified in Him. We don’t deserve to approach His throne in prayer, but we can come into the presence of God with confidence, because we are completely reconciled in Him.

When a person, in repentant faith, puts Christ on in baptism (Galatians 3:26-27), he receives all of the riches of God’s glorious grace. We must be a people who shout from the rooftops, “Come to Christ! There is grace for all!” That’s the message that should define the church. People should say about us, “Those folks are always talking about the grace, forgiveness, and mercy of God.”

2. We Must Stop Being Afraid of Grace

Some of us are afraid of grace, because we know people abuse the concept. In our fear of grace, we often talk more about what grace is not than about what grace is. That is shameful.

We should not be afraid to say exactly what Scripture says, “By grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Or that we are “justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24). None of that should make us uncomfortable in the least.

I suppose we are afraid that if we talk too much about grace, people might forget about obedience. That should not be, for grace is what teaches us to be obedient (see Titus 2:11-14)!

We must stop letting people steal our spiritual vocabulary. The fact that some “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 4), should not stop us from being the church of grace.

3. We Must Exude Grace

God has extended grace to us through Jesus Christ and He commands us to extend grace to others. In other words, God showers blessings on those who deserve His wrath, therefore we shower kindness on those who have mistreated us. Everything the church does and says should exude mercy and grace.

We don’t treat people the way they deserve to be treated, we treat people with grace. Our speech should “always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6). We should feed our enemies (Romans 12:20). When slapped, we should turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). When people insult us, we don’t insult them back; instead, we sincerely wish them well (Romans 12:14).

That’s what the church should look like. The church should be world famous for her grace.

Are You Helping the Church to be, The Church of Grace?

The only person you have control over is you. You can’t make other Christians be gracious. The only thing you can do is preach grace and exude grace yourself. So, let’s all do our part to make sure the church of Christ remains the church of grace.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

Free E-Book

Today (March 19) and tomorrow (March 20), you can download the Kindle version of my book, The Treasure Chest of Grace  for FREE! You can read it on your iPhone, iPad, Kindle device, computer, etc. Just click here to go to Amazon.com and download the book today! And remember, this offer expires March 20, 2012.

Update: 522 Books were given away through this promotion!

30% Off Paperback Version

Plus, for the next week (March 19-26), I’m offering a 30% discount on the paperback version of The Treasure Chest of Grace. To get this discount, just click here and enter the discount code: AYNM94UH when you checkout. Remember, this offer will expire on March 26, so don’t delay!

Here’s your opportunity to share the simple truths of God’s word with your friends and family. Please use the buttons on the left to share this information. Or send an e-mail to your friends and family letting them know about this incredible deal!

Thank you so much!

Wes McAdams

 

 

 

The Treasure Chest of Grace

Wes  —  August 9, 2011

Treasure Chest of GraceBeing radically Christian is about living a life that is completely focused on Christ. The reason we focus on Christ is because He is “the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). If Christ were not my Savior, why would I want to follow Him?  If I had the power to save myself, I would have no need of Christ. Too often it is presumed, by outsiders, that those who are passionate about Christianity are passionate because they consider themselves to be perfect. On the contrary, more often than not, it is those who know they are imperfect and in desperate need of grace, who are the most excited about being Christians. The more one acknowledges his dependence on (and need for) grace, the more passionate he can be about Christianity!

Grace has been defined as “unmerited favor”. This indicates that grace is when God blesses in ways that have not been earned or merited. It has also been defined as “blessings bestowed when wrath was owed.” This idea goes a bit further in explaining grace, showing that not only has the favor or blessings not been merited, but they have been given when what was deserved is God’s wrath. And lastly, some define grace with the acronym “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense”. Meaning, that the riches, favor, and blessings that were given, were given at the expense of Christ’s life. When we put these three definitions together we get a great picture of God’s grace that could be worded something like this, “Grace is God’s unmerited favor, riches, and blessings, bestowed at Christ’s expense, when wrath was owed.” That definition may be a bit more laborious to remember, but comes closer to capturing the idea of grace in its fullness.

The treasure chest of grace is filled with God’s favor, riches, and blessings. James writes, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). God loves those whom He has created and loves to lavish good gifts upon them. Jesus asks, “Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent” (Matthew 7:9-10)? Then He adds, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11)!

Every gift which God gives comes from the treasure chest of His grace. Paul says the riches of God’s grace are “immeasurable” (Ephesians 2:7). Paul was a man who understood and depended on the riches of God’s grace. In every single epistle, Paul mentions God’s grace! In fact, Paul mentions grace over 80 times in his 13 books! He declares, “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Paul took pride in nothing as coming from him or his abilities. He considered everything he was and everything he had as being gifts of God’s rich grace. He writes, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).

It must be fully understood that gifts are given from God by grace and not by merit. In Acts 17:24-25 we read, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” It is from God that mankind receives “life and breath”; what has man done to merit life? What has mankind done to earn air to breathe? Nothing!

By way of analogy, think for a moment about a man’s pet goldfish, swimming in a glass fish bowl. Who owns the bowl? The man, not the fish, owns the bowl. Who owns the water? The man, not the fish, owns the water. Who owns the food which the fish eats? The man, not the fish, owns the food. What has the fish done to earn the bowl, or the water, or the food? The answer is, absolutely nothing! In fact, there is nothing the fish could possibly do to deserve anything from his master. Anything which the fish receives is given solely upon the basis of grace.

In a lot of ways we are exactly like that goldfish. We exist in a world which we do not control and we do not own. We are completely dependant on the air we breathe; yet we did not create it nor do we own it. We must consume the food of the ground in order to live; yet we did not, nor would we be able to, create the soil or the seed from which our food comes. We rely upon meat to give us the strength which we need; yet we did not create the animal from which we receive it. The Psalmist proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

Just as a goldfish is incapable of earning anything he receives from his master, so too we are completely and utterly incapable of earning the things we receive from God. This does not mean, of course, that we are incapable of obeying Him, pleasing Him, honoring Him, and glorifying Him; but we must remember that by doing so, we have earned nothing.

God is so much higher than us and His glory is so far beyond our comprehension, that He could not possibly be indebted to us for anything. Isaiah reveals, “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6).

Therefore, let no one think that God owes him something! Let no one suppose that he has earned anything! Let no one even imagine that anything is his own! Everything you are and everything you have, you have received from the treasure chest of God’s grace!

I love you! A gracious God loves you! I pray many blessings for you!

Wes McAdams

 

I am so excited to announce the release of The Treasure Chest of Grace.

This book is all about how and when God saves man by grace. The only quotations in it come straight from the pages of Scripture, so you can be sure that the conclusions reached in this book are biblical!

Continue Reading…

In Acts 2:38 Peter told a crowd of people, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The question we will consider today is this: Was Peter telling the people to be baptized in order to be forgiven or was he telling them to be baptized because they were already forgiven?

The Preposition “Eis”

The word translated “for” in Acts 2:38 is the Greek word “eis.” Two scholars, A.T. Robertson and J.R. Mantey, have argued that in this passage the word “eis” means, “because.” They argued that Peter was telling the crowd, “Repent and be baptized because of the forgiveness of your sins.” In other words, be baptized in order to show that your sins have already been forgiven.

The problem with Robertson and Mantey’s argument is that the word “eis” simply does NOT mean, “because of.” It doesn’t mean that in this passage…or in any passage. It often has the following meanings:

  • to
  • into
  • unto
  • for
  • towards
  • among
  • at

It is used over 1,700 times in the New Testament and it shows movement toward a goal. It indicates purpose. The popular site, GotQuestions.org falsely claims that Matthew 12:41 proves “eis” can mean “because.” Matthew 12:41 says:

“The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

In this passage, “eis” is translated at.” But it doesn’t mean “because” it means “at the point of” or “when.” The people of Nineveh repented “when” Jonah preached to them. Jesus is saying the current generation would be condemned by the people of Nineveh because (Greek “hoti”) the people of Nineveh repented at the point of (“eis”) Jonah’s preaching.

The word “eis” never ever means “because” in the New Testament. That’s simply not how the word was used. Those who claim otherwise are twisting the word to fit their preconceived theological ideas.

For the Forgiveness of Sins

In fact, there is another time the exact phrase, “for the forgiveness of sins” appears in the New Testament. In Matthew 26:27-28, Jesus says:

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'”

Did you catch that? Jesus said His blood would be poured out “for the forgiveness of sins.” Could He have meant that His blood was poured out “because” sins had already been forgiven? Could He have meant He was going to die as an outward sign that sins were forgiven without His blood? Surely that conclusion is preposterous!

If the Greek phrase in Matthew 26:28 means “in order for sins to be forgiven” then why doesn’t the exact same phrase in Acts 2:38 mean the same thing? The truth is, it does mean the same thing.

How It is Translated

Though many preachers, pastors, teachers, and commentators continue to argue for “because of” in Acts 2:38, it seems that translators of the Bible are almost always scholarly enough to treat the text well. Consider all of these translations:

  • ESV – “for the forgiveness of your sins”
  • NIV – “for the forgiveness of your sins”
  • KJV – “for the remission of sins”
  • NASB – “for the forgiveness of your sins”

Even many of the paraphrase Bibles do not accept the “because of” argument:

  • MSG – “be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven.”
  • NLT – “for the forgiveness of your sins”
  • ERV – “be baptized, each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ. Then God will forgive your sins”
  • CEV – “so that your sins will be forgiven”

It is simply NOT accurate to say Acts 2:38 means, “because of the forgiveness of your sins.” There may be some fringe translation somewhere that translates it that way, but I don’t know what translation that would be. Every reputable Bible I have ever seen makes the point clear, sins are forgiven at the point of baptism.

Conclusion

Peter was NOT teaching, nor am I teaching, that a person is saved by works and not by grace. Baptism does NOT merit salvation. Baptism is simply the point at which Jesus saves us. It is the point at which we are “united with” His saving work (Romans 6:1-7). It is the point at which we are resurrected from our state of spiritual deadness (Colossians 2:12).

Baptism is a penitent appeal of faith for the forgiveness of our sins (see 1 Peter 3:21). It is saying to God, “I trust you. I surrender to you. I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He will wash my sins away and raise me from the dead.”

None of that contradicts the idea that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We are saved totally by grace and totally by faith when we repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

We all know “unity” is a biblical concept. We know Jesus prayed that we all “may become perfectly one” (John 17:23). But in the grand scheme of things, many of us seem to rank unity as a pretty low priority. “It would be nice,” we tend to think, “but until ‘all those people’ get their act together, it probably isn’t going to happen.” I would suggest unity needs to be a far greater priority than many of us have treated it and here’s why.

Why Unity is Important

When Jesus prayed for all those who believe in Him through the word of the apostles to be “one,” he gave a reason. Listen to the Lord:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23, emphasis mine).

The reason Jesus gave for oneness is “so that the world may know” that God sent Jesus. The unity of believers is a testimony to the deity of Jesus. Which means, of course, that the opposite tends to be true as well. When the world sees disunity, they are less likely to “believe.”

Think about that for a second. When believers cannot get along with one another, it prevents the world from believing in Christ. If you want the world to hear and believe the Good News, then one of the things you MUST do is be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The Word “Church”

It’s interesting to me that occasionally I will hear Christians say that the Greek word “ekklesia” (which we translate “church“), means “called out.” This, of course, would imply separateness. But the definition of words must be determined by how they were actually used, not by their etymology. The word “ekklesia” was not used to emphasize separateness, but togetherness.

The word “ekklesia” means “gathering” or “assembly.” It is about individuals being called together. Yes, of course, we are coming out of the world, but that is not the emphasis of the word. The word emphasizes our being brought together under the banner of King Jesus.

When we think of “church” being about separateness, then we tend to think it is a good thing to separate ourselves from everyone with whom we disagree. Ironically, the word “Pharisee” means “one who is separated.” The emphasis needs to be put back on togetherness, rather than separateness.

Maintaining Unity

We do not create Christian unity. Unity was created when, “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). But even though we don’t create unity, it is our responsibility to eagerly “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Here are some things we need to do to maintain unity:

  1. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Bear with one another in love (Ephesians 4:1-3).
  2. Hold fast to the word preached by the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:2).
  3. Remember that the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are the matters of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
  4. Do not quarrel over opinions (Romans 14:1).
  5. If you are strong, “bear with the failings of the weak” (Romans 15:1).

Maintaining unity is relational and it is doctrinal. We must be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and kind. And we must be unified in doctrine. We must only teach as doctrine what is truly taught by the New Testament. Anything beyond that is “opinion” and speculation; we can certainly discuss our opinions, but we must not quarrel and divide over them.

Hold the Line

We must “hold the line.” We must stick together. Remember the reason unity is so important: “that the world may believe.” When we let our preferences, agendas, and personalities divide us, we might as well say, “I don’t care if the world believes.”

None of this is to say that we should overlook sin or rebellion. And it’s certainly not to say that everyone who claims to be a Christian is actually a Christian or that biblical doctrine should ever be overlooked or dismissed. This is simply to say unity MUST be one of our highest priorities, because it is a testimony to the deity of Jesus.

Too often we have the attitude, “I’d rather be right by myself than wrong with you,” when we should have the attitude, “I’d rather be right with you and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that happens.” Where we’re already together – unified in Christ – let’s stick together. And where we’re divided, let’s figure out how the Gospel of truth and grace can bring us together, so that we can be one – even as the Father and the Son are one.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

How can everyone read the same Bible and come to different conclusions about what it means? If we’re all reading the same book, why don’t we all believe and practice the same things? Here are some thoughts about why we don’t all understand the Bible alike.

Not the Reason

First of all, you need to give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t assume they are lazy, ignorant, or rebellious. There are honest, sincere, God-fearing people from every religious tradition. That doesn’t mean, of course, that everyone is equally right or no one is wrong. It just means, typically the problem is NOT people’s motives or work ethic.

Statements like this, “Well, if people would just read their Bibles, they would see it clearly says…” are rarely helpful. After all, the people who disagree with you are probably thinking the same thing. They are thinking you just need to start reading your Bible and you would see they are clearly right.

An Illustration

Imagine there are seven children in a family. Each of the children is a different age and has different things going on in his or her life: one is hungry, one has baseball practice that evening, one is having trouble with a boyfriend, and one just failed his history test.

All seven of the children walk into the kitchen to discover their father is on the phone with their mother, who is out of town for the week. Without interrupting the phone conversation, they decide they will try to glean the information they need by listening to everything their father says to their mother.

They listen as their father asks and answers several questions and they try to piece together an idea of what kind of mood their father is in, what they are going to have for supper, and what the plans are for that evening. It’s easy to see how some of the children will inevitably walk away with differing impressions and understandings.

One reason the children will not understand the conversation alike is that none of them can hear both sides of the conversation. They can only hear what their father is saying, but not their mother’s end of the conversation. Another reason is, they are each asking different questions. They are listening from their unique perspective and trying to understand something about which the other children do not care.

Understanding the Bible Alike

Reading the New Testament is like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. The apostle or evangelist who wrote each book was having a conversation with the original audience, answering their particular questions and addressing their particular problems. This is true for the Gospel accounts, the book of Acts, the epistles, and the book of Revelation. It is even true of the Old Testament.

One reason we struggle to understand the Bible alike is that we are coming to the Bible asking the wrong questions. We are trying to force the Bible to answer our questions, rather than asking, “What issues is the Bible actually addressing and how is it addressing those issues?” The only way to come to similar understandings of the Bible is to start with the same question.

Primary Issues

The primary issues of the Bible are the issues the Bible specifically addresses. These must be our primary concern. Paul wrote:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

The Bible specifically addresses questions about who Jesus is, what His death means, what His resurrection means, and how to become a redeemed citizen of His kingdom.

The things Scripture specifically addresses must be our primary concern. We must strive to understand what the biblical authors were saying to their original audience. Only then will we be able to understand how that message applies to us today.

Secondary Issues

Listening to one side of a phone conversation, the seven children can understand, “Dad told mom he would pick her up at the airport tomorrow evening at 3:00.” The issue of picking mom up at the airport was directly addressed in the conversation, therefore it is a primary issue.

However, the issue of Sarah’s recital that is supposed to take place on the same evening at 4:30 was not directly addressed. How can the children know whether or not their parents will make it to the recital? Though that issue wasn’t specifically addressed, it may be possible to piece together an answer to that question, based on other things that were said.

There are many issues the Bible does not address directly, but we can piece together a proper understanding by taking the whole of Scripture into consideration. We must be very careful with this of course, because it is possible to allow our own bias to cloud our judgement.

Many of these secondary issues revolve around things the biblical authors and audiences took for granted. They didn’t address some issues, because the answers would have been obvious to them based on everything they knew about God and His will.

Non-Issues

There are other issues and questions we might call, “non-issues.” These are things Scripture simply doesn’t address either directly or indirectly. Like the children listening to their parents’ conversation, one of them might ask, “What did they say about eating candy?” The honest answer might be, “They didn’t say anything about it.”

How should we approach these non-issues in Scripture? How do we handle issues like whether or not a Christian can – or should – vote in an election, when voting is something never addressed directly or indirectly in Scripture?

We handle these issues with sobriety, humility, reverence for God, grace for our Christian brothers and sisters, love, and a desire to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (see Romans 14 and Ephesians 4).

Bottom Line

We need to start with the question, “What issues is the Bible actually addressing and how is it addressing those issues?” We need to be willing to accept the full implications of what we discover. And we need to be willing to say, when appropriate, “The Bible doesn’t address that issue.”

We will always have differences of opinions, but it is possible to be on the same page about matters of first importance, have a solid understanding of secondary issues, and not let “non-issues” come between us.

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams

If we are going to restore New Testament Christianity, then I believe we need to restore a biblical emphasis on the Return of our King. As Christians, the Return of Jesus is our hope. It is what we should be longing for (2 Timothy 4:8). But many of us don’t long for His appearing, because we don’t understand the pivotal role the Return plays in the Christian story. Here are a few things we can expect when Jesus comes back.

Resurrection of the Dead

Most Christians I talk to simply seem to believe we go to heaven when we die. They believe that when this life is over, we immediately go to our eternal dwelling place and that’s it. The story is over. But that’s really not a biblical concept.

The Bible actually says very little about what existence is like for God’s people when they die. Here are a few details we can piece together:

  • Jesus simply described it as being at “Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22).
  • Paul said that it was “gain” and was “far better” to “depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:21-23).
  • The Spirit said it is a “blessed” state of “rest” (Revelation 14:13).

But these are only a few minor footnotes in the biblical story. The real story is about the dead waiting to be raised to life again. When Jesus returns, the dead will be raised and transformed, receiving brand new glorious bodies.

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

In the biblical story, death is a curse that has fallen over the whole earth because of our rebellion against God. Like characters in a fairytale, mankind has lived under this curse for millennia, anxiously waiting for someone to come and break the spell. The Good News is, Jesus has already broken the curse. And when He comes again, the curse will be lifted once and for all. No more death!

Jesus will call us forth from the realm of the dead, transform our bodies into immortal bodies, and from the moment we meet Him in the air, “we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Judgement

While we wait for Jesus to return, we are to live in obedience to the Gospel. In other words, we are to live in obedience to Jesus’ Kingship. We are to be His faithful servants, believing He is the King of the world who broke the curse, believing He is coming back, and believing He will reward our love, loyalty, and devotion.

Jesus is calling His entire creation to receive this Good News, to receive Him as King, to bow their knees in humble allegiance to Him. Sadly, the majority of mankind continues to rebel. They continue to choose the way of darkness, the way of death. For them, the Return will not be celebratory reunion.

Jesus will return with “mighty angels.” He will come in “flaming fire.” As for those who are not living in obedience to the gospel:

“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

Neither the living nor the dead, who reject the grace and mercy of God, will escape this fate. The dead who do not belong to the Lord will be raised to face this judgement. But God wants to spare as many as possible from this fate. He is giving mankind ample opportunity to stop rebelling and repent (2 Peter 3:9).

The Destruction of the Earth

Peter compares the Day of the Lord to the days of Noah, when the earth was destroyed by water. In those days, God destroyed the wicked world with a flood and gave Noah a brand new place to dwell. The Bible tells us that we are headed toward a second destruction of the world.

“The heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:5-7).

Everything in the world is under the curse and it will all be destroyed by fire. But it seems creation itself is waiting for this cleansing fire, “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).

After the heavens pass away with a roar, after the heavenly bodies are burned up and dissolved, after the earth and the works that are done on it are exposed, then God’s people will be like Noah’s family when they stepped off the ark. We will have a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).

The Bottom Line

The fire is coming, but those who are in Christ have NOTHING to fear. We don’t know what our new bodies will be like except that they will be new, glorious, and imperishable. We don’t know what our new home will be like, except that we will always be with the Lord. And for me, that’s all that matters.

Because of His grace, I get to be with my Lord and His people for all eternity. Which is why I desperately long for His return!

I love you and God loves you,

Wes McAdams