(Continued from page 354)Justification by Grace
Justification is based entirely on God's grace. Romans 3:24 tells us that God's declaration of righteousness is given to believers 'freely by his grace'. The word grace literally means 'unmerited favour.' It is because of God's unmerited favor that believers can freely be 'declared righteous' before God. The Bible makes virtually no reference to 'sanctifying grace.' In the Bible, grace is quite simply grace - and it refers to the unmerited favor of God. 'Unmerited' means it cannot be worked for, but Papal Catholicism teaches that one must do meritorious works to earn grace. If grace is not free, though, it is not truly grace and Scripture makes this absolutely clear:
'If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace' (Romans 11:6).
Further, the idea that God's grace is repeatedly communicated to His people through 'sacraments' (such as the Papal Roman Catholic Cult teaches) has no biblical basis. God's grace is given to us not through ritual ceremonies but comes straight from Him to all who believe in the person of Jesus Christ:
'Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God' (Romans 5:1,2).
Contrary to Papal Roman Catholicism, merit plays no role in obtaining eternal life. From a biblical perspective, opting for the merit system can only be bad, since all of us merit one thing - eternal death - as the Bible makes clear:
'For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 6:23).
We simply cannot do good works to earn favour with God. Rather, our favour with God comes only as a result of placing faith in Christ, after which time the Father sees us as being 'in Christ.' Experientially we may still be quite imperfect, but the Father sees us as having the very perfection of Christ since we are 'in Christ' (Romans 8:1). As a result of our relationship with Christ, and as a result of walking in dependence on the Spirit, good works are increasingly produced in our lives. Good works are the result of our relationship with Christ, not the source of it.
Psalm 130:3,4 makes this very clear: 'If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness'. This passage exemplifies grace. The phrase 'kept a record' referred, among the ancients, to keeping an itemized account. The point of the psalmist is that if God were keeping a detailed account of all our sins, there would be no way for us to have a relationship with Him. It would be impossible. The good news is that God does not keep such an itemized account but rather forgives those who trust in Christ.
True grace is sometimes hard for people to grasp. After all, our society is performance-oriented. Obtaining good grades in school depends on how well we perform in school. Climbing up the corporate ladder at work depends on how well we perform at work. In our society, nothing of any real worth is a 'free ticket.' But God's gift of salvation is a grace-gift. It is free! We cannot attain it by a good performance. Ephesians 2:8,9 affirms this:
'By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.'
Titus 3:5 affirms this truth that God:
'He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.'
By contrast, Romans 3:20 says that 'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [or declared righteous] in His sight' (insert added). In Galatians 2:16 the apostle Paul tells us that 'a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus.'
We repeat - gifts cannot be worked for - only wages can be worked for as Romans 4:4-5 tells us:Law versus Grace
'When a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness'.
Since salvation is a free gift, it cannot be earned. I hope we are clear on this point for it is irrefutable.
Good works are a consequence of justification, not a condition for it. Good works are a by-product of salvation (Matthew 7:15-23; 1 Timothy 5:10,25). Good works result from the changed purpose for living that salvation brings (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). We are not saved by our works, but in order to do good works. We do works not to gain salvation, but because we have already gained it.
So at the end it all comes down to this simple choice - do you believe the clear teaching of the Bible given through inspired men such as the apostle Paul (Romans 3:20):
'by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified [declared righteous] in His sight'
Who are you going to believe - the Bible or the errors of men such as Muhammad?
Begotten not created!
You write: 'Jesus ... told his people that to enter God's kingdom, they must live by the commandments'
This is a mistaken view which is immediately clarified simply by reading the verses which immediately follow this quotation from Matthew 19:
MT 19:16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" MT 19:17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments." MT 19:18 "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,' and `love your neighbor as yourself.' " MT 19:20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?" MT 19:21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Jesus tells him to keep the commandments to enter life - but the man recognizes that he might still lack something. So Jesus gets to the important point - even if he had kept all the commandments as he claimed and also given all his possessions to the poor - unless he was then following Jesus he would NOT enter eternal life.
We are well aware of the proud Muslim attitude to giving alms and fasting - but, unless you have surrendered your whole life to the Lord Jesus Christ, you will not enter eternal life. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Papal Roman Catholics and many other false sects and cults are all leading their followers to Hell. Jesus has opened the gate wide through His sacrifice at Calvary and all you have to do is surrender your whole life to Him and He will make something beautiful of it as He has done for so many others, such as David Fotos, a proud sinner who thought he did not need God - but God found him when he did not even know he was a poor lost sheep!
See how Jesus goes on to explain the problem and the emphasis on God's grace:
MT 19:22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. MT 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." MT 19:25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" MT 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." MT 19:27 Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" MT 19:28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. MT 20:1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. MT 20:3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, `You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, `Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' MT 20:7 " `Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, `You also go and work in my vineyard.' MT 20:8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, `Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' MT 20:9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 `These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, `and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' MT 20:13 "But he answered one of them, `Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' MT 20:16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Yes, the young ruler did ask what he should do to inherit eternal life. But there was nothing he could do. Having already broken the law, keeping it perfectly in the future (even if that could be done) would not pay for past sin or justify anyone.
Though he claimed that he kept the law perfectly, that wasn't true, for (Romans 3:23) "all have sinned." Nor was Christ giving him conditions for salvation, for "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:19-23).
If "selling all and giving to the poor" is essential to salvation, then none of us is saved. It was Christ's means of revealing to the young man his love of riches and that he didn't love his neighbour as himself. Certainly Christ was not telling him that if he sold all he had and gave to the poor he would be saved. It would merely be the means of starting to follow Christ.
Jesus wonderfully leads the listeners along by degrees until they understood that if God's generosity was to be represented by a man, such a man would be different from any man ever encountered. As, of course, Jesus was!
If entering eternal life was at all to do with the amount of work done then Jesus would never have preached this parable because He would have totally contradicted Himself! All who are in heaven receive the same reward of eternal life, no matter whether they have suffered for their witness to the Lord Jesus Christ for a few hours (like the thief on the cross - Luke 23:43) or for many years, like the apostle Paul.
Tell me, Rami, if you love the Lord Jesus Christ as you say, do you tell all your Muslim family and friends that you are a follower of Jesus alone, or do you deny Him by your absence of witness for Him? Remember, He warned those who claimed to follow Him (Matthew 16:24-28; cf. Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-27):
MT 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. 28 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
MK 8:34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." MK 9:1 And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."
LK 9:23 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."
We cannot try and compromise with the world as Israel did in trying to share belief in the 'gods' of the surrounding nations (cf. Ezekiel 16 etc.) with worship of the 'One God' (Deuteronomy 6:4) or, as some so-called Christians do today, in belonging to Masonic lodges and other false organizations which decry the place of Christ and His Gospel and try to fellowship with abominations.
'Abomination' is a spiritual term. There is no greater abomination than rejecting the sacrifice Christ made on the cross for our sins - unless it is leading others astray also. When you reject much of the ministry of Christ - as you are doing by rejecting the Crucifixion - you deny the sacrifice He made for you on the cross and the offer of His body for your sins is not available to you. This truth is clearly spelt out in Scripture as we show in dealing with 'the Atonement.'
Tragically, Islam denies the death of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay for the penalty of sin, believing that He was taken to heaven by God before having to go to the cross and that whoever died on the cross was only someone who appeared to be like Jesus (one Islamic tradition suggests Judas - another insult to the Lord Jesus Christ)! Islam rejects the doctrine of the Crucifixion of Jesus and even claims that the enemies of God started the historical claims and subsequent doctrine. This rejection is based on accepting the Quran as the authority of God Himself and rejection of the Biblical accounts (against all the logic evidenced in our first response) and a deeper rejection of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins. This rejection is interesting since many Muslim homes are not averse to sacrificing a lamb on feast days every year. Why play lip service to such an atonement while denying the essence of the sacrifice? We look at the evidence for the absolute necessity of an eternal and immutable atonement in the section: 'The Atonement.'
You write: What does Begotten mean? Better yet, how do you understand this term?
We gave a very detailed explanation of 'begotten' in the first e-mail. Which part of the explanation do you have problems with? Are you still repelled by the usual Muslim objections to the thought of Jesus Christ being referred to as the "Son of God" and the implication that God must has a wife in order for a child to be 'begotten'? This understandably blasphemous thought is equally abhorrent to Christians. As God, the Lord Jesus Christ has always existed but, in the miracle of the Incarnation, He took on Himself human form as He was born to Mary, who conceived by means of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:26-35). The angel Gabriel told Mary:
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God" (v35, NASB).
There is nothing in the Greek word (episkiazÇ) translated 'overshadow' to imply anything other than a metaphorical use - and certainly not any kind of 'physical union.' The Muslim error in understanding 'begotten' is surely linked to belief that it was Ishmael, not Isaac, who was to have been sacrificed by Abraham (although the Quran does not specify this). One of the reasons for believing this is that the son is referred to as an "only" son (Gen. 22:2) and, since Isaac was not born until Ishmael was 14, Muslims reason that the "only" son had to be Ishmael. However, this disregards the fact that Hebrews 11:17 refers to Isaac as Abraham*s "only begotten" son. The New Testament has been preserved immaculately in excellent Greek common to the time of the apostles and the Greek word (monogenes) translated ''only begotten** is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ and does not refer to birth but to a unique relationship. We quote the whole definition by Greek expert, W.E. Vine (emphasis added):
monogenes is used five times, all in the writings of the apostle John, of Christ as the Son of God; it is translated "only begotten" in Heb. 11:17 of the relationship of Isaac to Abraham.
With reference to Christ, the phrase "the only begotten from the Father," John 1:14, RV (see also the marg.), indicates that as the Son of God He was the sole representative of the Being and character of the One who sent Him. In the original the definite article is omitted both before "only begotten" and before "Father," and its absence in each case serves to lay stress upon the characteristics referred to in the terms used. The apostle's object is to demonstrate what sort of glory it was that he and his fellow apostles had seen. That he is not merely making a comparison with earthly relationships is indicated by para, "from." The glory was that of a unique relationship and the word "begotten" does not imply a beginning of His Sonship. It suggests relationship indeed, but must be distinguished from generation as applied to man.
We can only rightly understand the term "the only begotten" when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated relationship. "The begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is the Son. He, a Person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood. This necessitates eternity, absolute being; in this respect He is not 'after' the Father" (Moule). The expression also suggests the thought of the deepest affection, as in the case of the OT word yachid, variously rendered, "only one," Gen. 22:2, 12; "only son," Jer. 6:26; Amos 8:10; Zech. 12:10; "only beloved," Prov. 4:3, and "darling," Ps. 22:20; 35:17.
In John 1:18 the clause "the only begotten son, which is in the bosom of the Father," expresses both His eternal union with the Father in the Godhead and the ineffable intimacy and love between them, the Son sharing all the Father's counsels and enjoying all His affections. Another reading is monogenes Theos, "God only-begotten." In John 3:16 the statement, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son," must not be taken to mean that Christ became the only begotten son by incarnation. The value and the greatness of the gift lay in the Sonship of Him who was given. His Sonship was not the effect of His being given. In John 3:18 the phrase "the name of the only begotten son of God" lays stress upon the full revelation of God's character and will, His love and grace, as conveyed in the name of One who, being in a unique relationship to Him, was provided by Him as the object of faith. In 1 John 4:9 the statement "God hath sent His only begotten son into the world" does not mean that God sent out into the world one who at His birth in Bethlehem had become His Son. Cf. the parallel statement, "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son," Gal. 4:6, RV, which could not mean that God sent forth One who became His Spirit
(Continued on page 356)