Christian

Faith Toward God: 2 – Faith in Jesus Is Not Enough


Suggested Pre-Reading: Faith Toward God 1


In the same way that faith in a god is not enough, so too faith in a Jesus is not enough. Of course, by “a Jesus” we mean not the real One, but the multitude of fake ones that have existed from the days of Paul until now.

For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully. (2 Corinthians 11: 4)

Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for believing in “another Jesus”, rather than believing in the Jesus of Paul’s preaching. From this we learn that saying “I believe in Jesus” does not qualify as a genuine, Biblical faith in Christ. Just as faith in God must be based on the particulars of Scripture, so too must faith in Jesus be based on the particulars of Scripture. Virtually every New Testament book warns of false teachings – if God does not desire accurate faith in Jesus, then what are all the warnings about? Jesus Himself warns us, saying:

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7: 21 – 23)

Why would Jesus reject people who in His name prophesied and cast out demons and performed miracles? He tells us – they were lawless. But how were they lawless? Their lawlessness is seen in their response to Jesus – they offered up their works as proof of their righteousness before God. To stand before God on the Day of Judgment, and to offer up your works as proof of your worthiness, is a tell-tale sign that you believe in another Jesus, because the gospel of the real Jesus states that man can never by works justify himself before God. We are righteous because of Christ, not because of our works. Paul reminded the Corinthian church of this great truth:

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5: 21)

And Jesus, when asked what the great work of God is, did not say “justify yourself through prophecy and miracles”. Rather, He said

This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. (John 6: 29)

Faith in the real Jesus is not limited to this one doctrine of Christ making us righteous by His blood. But it is a key doctrine and essential to the gospel. If one does not believe it, then one most certainly does not believe in the real Jesus. And if one does not believe in the real Jesus, then their faith is in a Jesus, which will not be enough on the Day of Judgment.

Eternal Judgment: 1 – Judgment Is Needed For Justice

Gospel means good news. In order to understand how good the gospel of Jesus Christ is, one must understand how bad the bad news is. The bad news is very bad: God, at some point in the future, will put an end to the earth as we know it. He will bring all of humanity before Him, as defendants in a courtroom, and proclaim “guilty” or “not guilty” to each and every person. Those found guilty will be sent to everlasting torment, with no hope of parole. The first clear Biblical reference to this event, which is called the Eternal Judgment, is found in the Old Testament book of Daniel:

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

Before discussing how it is that God determines guilt or innocence, let us for a moment ponder the philosophical and logical implications of this event.

Adolf Hitler was a madman who killed millions of Jews for no good reason. He evaded justice by taking his own life prior to being captured. One must ask, “Did Hitler’s plan work?” Did Hitler escape justice by killing himself? If there is no Eternal Judgment, if there is no judgment after bodily death, then the answer is unequivocally yes, Hitler evaded justice. But if the human soul lives beyond the bodily death of this earth, and will stand before God one day, then no, Hitler did not escape justice. God will ensure that he is punished appropriately for his transgressions.

For a moment let us theorize that Hitler did not commit suicide, but was captured. Undoubtedly he would have been executed for his offenses, but perhaps leading up to his execution he would have been tortured. The question that must be asked is whether any amount of torture could truly repay Hitler for all the evil he committed. How much torture is needed to equal the deaths of six million Jews? How much torture is needed to account for the economic destruction, the lives lost during official combat, and the murdering of non-Jew invalids and the poor? Hitler would, even without killing himself, escape justice, because no human court could inflict a punishment that would ensure justice was served. It is not humanly possible to punish a man like Hitler, in proportion to all the evil and destruction he was responsible for.

The conclusion then is simple: without a judgment by God after death, there would be no such thing as objective justice. Justice would always be limited in scope (Hitler could never be adequately punished for his evils) and justice could be evaded (either through death or by hiding from human authorities). With an eternal judgment, justice is objective and no one will escape. God will ensure that all are brought to justice, with the righteous being rewarded and the wicked being punished.

Although intellectually we may nod our head at the notion of an eternal judgment being required for true justice, we at the same time may be fearful about such a judgment, wondering whether we will be found guilty. How is it that God determines guilt and innocence? The surprising teaching of the Bible is that God’s judgment is based not on one’s actual deeds, but on one’s faith in the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news – one can be a law-breaker and yet be acquitted and declared innocent. This scandalous idea will be the subject of the next discussion.

God’s Oracles Center Around Christ: 4 – Summarizing the Centrality of Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: God’s Oracles Center Around Christ 3


It has crossed my mind that perhaps the cart has been put before the horse. We have discussed how Christ is central to the New Testament, the Old Testament, and the five major covenants of God. But we have not talked a lot about “the Christ”. So herein is a brief summary of the Christ, serving as the conclusion to our study of the principle that God’s oracles center around Him.

The foundation for the Christ is laid when the prophet Nathan gives King David these words from God:

Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever. (2 Samuel 7: 16)

God promised David an eternal throne. Over the course of time the prophets made it clear that the eternal throne would be occupied not by an endless succession of kings, but by one ultimate king.

…I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. (Jeremiah 23: 5)

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom…(Isaiah 9: 7)

But with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; and He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. (Isaiah 11: 4)

My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. (Ezekiel 37: 24)

One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed. (Daniel 7: 13 – 14)

Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices. (Zechariah 6: 13)

Because the prophets clearly told of a coming king from the line of David, one might think that the most frequent rabbinic name ascribed to this anticipated man would be “Melek ben David”, meaning King Son of David. But the rabbis did not call Him that; instead, they referred to Him as “Mashiach ben David”, meaning Messiah Son of David. To understand why the rabbis called this man Messiah, one needs to know what Messiah means:

The word Messiah comes from a Hebrew term that means “anointed one.” Its Greek counterpart is Christos, from which the word Christ comes…In Old Testament times, part of the ritual of commissioning a person for a special task was to anoint him with oil. The phrase “anointed” one was applied to a person in such cases.1

In the Old Testament there are many messiahs. Saul was anointed as king of Israel. David was anointed as king of Israel. God anointed the Gentile king Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Israel. This concept of an anointed one, which had general usage, took on a new specific usage because of the prophecies about the son of David. The son of David was commissioned by God to be a king. He would be a king, not just of Israel, but the entire world. He would bring about a universal utopia, the likes of which this world has never seen. He would teach the world the commands of God. There would be mass conversion to the God of Israel. The accomplishments of this man would be exceeded by no one. Therefore, this person was not “an” anointed one, but “the” anointed one. That is why the rabbis called him Mashiach ben David. That is why we call Him Jesus Christ.

The magnitude of the messianic vision of the prophets makes it easy to conclude that the Christ is at the center of all of God’s oracles. How could a man commissioned to do all of the things the prophets said not be the primary character of God’s story? How could someone who single-handedly ushers in the utopia we all yearn for not be the central figure of the Biblical narrative? We would do well to remember the words of Jesus, Mashiach ben David, spoken to rabbis who, though waiting for Messiah, thought that the laws and commands of God were the central figures of the Biblical narrative:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me…John 5: 39

The Bible is about Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One. Of this, we can be certain.


1 Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995)

Christian Celibacy + Suicidal Despair = Matthew Vines’ False Teaching

In response to the SCOTUS ruling on gay marriage, pastor Kevin DeYoung published an article called “40 Questions For Christians Now Waving Rainbow Flags”. The purpose of the article was to challenge Christians to derive their worldview from Scripture rather than the ideas of American secular culture. Matthew Vines, a “gay Christian” who does not believe the Bible prohibits same-sex marriage, released his own 40 questions as a response.

I wanted to briefly comment on Vines’ questions 7 – 10, because they focus on the topic of celibacy. Since I lived a span of 12 years from the time I became a Christian to the time I got married, the topic of Christian celibacy is something I am very familiar with. As I read Vines’ questions, I was disappointed by his myopic handling of the topic. The questions are:

7. Do you accept that lifelong celibacy is the only valid option for most gay people if all same-sex relationships are sinful?

8. How many gay brothers and sisters in Christ have you walked with on the path of mandatory celibacy, and for how long?

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?

10. Has mandatory celibacy produced good fruit in the lives of most gay Christians you know?

Notice how Vines limits the focus of the doctrine of Christian celibacy to “gay Christians”. The fact of the matter is this doctrine impacts various types of Christians:

  • Those who never marry
  • Those who divorce and are single again
  • Widows or widowers who remain unmarried
  • Those with spouses who have a physical impairment that prevents them from participating in sexual intercourse
  • Those who are apart from their spouses for extended periods of time, due to job or other circumstances (deployed military, etc.)

Any Christian who fits into the list above is in a situation that requires what Matthew Vines calls “mandatory celibacy”, but which I think is more aptly called “God-ordained celibacy”. Through his questions Vines insinuates that God-ordained celibacy can lead to suicidal thoughts. This is not a light thing to say. Nor is it an easy thing to prove. Anyone familiar with root-cause analysis understands that “correlation does not imply causation”. In other words, if a survey is performed of gay Christians and they blame celibacy for their suicidal thoughts, this does not actually prove that celibacy is the cause. This just proves that those surveyed blamed celibacy.

If we step away from the emotional argumentation of Vines and look at the issue Biblically, we must first acknowledge that contemplating suicide to escape one’s struggles is sinful. To truly consider suicide is to truly consider murdering yourself, and murder is unequivocally a sin in Scripture. Since contemplating suicide is sinful, Matthew Vines is arguing that God-ordained celibacy has caused gay Christians to sin. One must ask, in light of this serious accusation, whether the Bible holds the position that following God’s good law can cause someone to sin. This is what Paul wrote:

Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. (Romans 7: 7 – 13)

According to the apostle it is impossible for God’s law to cause us to sin. Rather, sin is distinct from the law, and it produces desires in us opposed to God’s law. When we act on such desires, and fail to live by God’s law, it is not the law’s fault, but it is our fault because of sin.

What then is the response to gay Christians struggling with sin, even the sin of suicidal despair?

The response is not to change God’s law, which is what Vines is attempting to do by advocating for same-sex marriage. By altering God’s words and endorsing behaviors God has not approved, Vines is hurting the very people he is trying to help. Rather than ministering to them in their sin, and reminding them of their hope in the gospel, Vines has eliminated the category of sin altogether, and has instructed gay Christians that their suicidal feelings are derived not from sinful natures, but from an oppressive church that has denied marriage to same-sex couples.

The response to a Christian dissatisfied with the life God has given them, and the commands God has given them, is to call them to repent and remind them of the promises of the gospel. There are not many promises a Christian has in this life from God. Are we promised money? No. Are we promised health? No. Are we promised a spouse? No. If we are able to marry, are we promised a life of never-ending sexual satisfaction? No. We are promised that God will use all things for the good of those whom He has called. And we are promised that one day, the pain and misery of this life will be over, and we will dwell forever with God in peace, because Jesus Christ has bore the penalty for our sins and has reconciled us to God.

The eternal promises of God through Jesus Christ help us endure whatever the day brings. These are the promises that have helped many a Christian endure a martyr’s death. Surely these gospel promises are good enough to help Christians living with God-ordained celibacy, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual singles, divorcees, widows or widowers, or the physically afflicted.

In conclusion, I suppose the whole of this article is my answer to Vines’ ninth question.

9. What is your answer for gay Christians who struggled for years to live out a celibacy mandate but were driven to suicidal despair in the process?