Category Archives: Theology

Rayliu1

Pastor Ray’s blog Raykliu is continued in Rayliu1.

Please go to http://rayliu1.wordpress.com/ for future posts.Pastor Ray’s blog

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Must we Confess to be Forgiven? (3 of 3)

Prodigal Son

Prodigal Son

(Continued from yesterday)

Where does it say in the Bible that teachings before the cross no longer apply afterwards? Some may quote Hebrews 8:13 –
When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.
However, this passage is contrasting the old and the new covenant, so of course the old is superseded by the new. But it is NOT comparing NT teaching before and after the cross. There is a huge difference. And didn’t the Bible say:
Rom 15:4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
• Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

If even OT truths were written for our instruction, how much more the Lord’s teaching!

I think in their zeal to drive home the point that Christ has done everything for us and that we do not need to strive for our salvation, some preachers have gone overboard and thrown out the baby with the bath water. It is good to present truth in fresh, creative ways for maximum impact, but it is wrong to go beyond what Scripture said. Our salvation is based on Christ plus nothing. We can never merit God’s favor by what we do – never have, never will. But that does not mean we don’t need to do anything in response to the grace and mercy shown to us. Not to earn God’s favor, but in gratitude for giving us what we don’t deserve, and withholding from us the wrath we do deserve.

Prayer is one such thing. Confession and asking God to forgive us our sins is another. Just as God already knows our needs before we ask Him, but tells us to pray anyways, so God already forgave us in Christ before we ask for His forgiveness, but tells us to confess nonetheless. Let me use the parable of the Prodigal Son as an illustration. When the son wasted his life and grieved his father, their fellowship was damaged by his behavior, but the parent-child relationship was not broken because the dad still had compassion for his child (Lk 15:20). He was willing to forgive his son and embraced and kissed him, even before he confessed (Lk 15:21). All that was needed was his genuine repentance (Lk 15:18-19, 21), and fellowship was restored (Lk 15:22). May I suggest to you that this is a truer picture of our relationship with our Heavenly Father than the one that depicts Him as not caring about our conduct because we are accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6 KJV).

So why confess? Because it shows we are really God’s children and care about grieving our Father. We confess because we admit that we sinned against Him, we want to turn from our wrong path, and we want to walk in His way with His help. We don’t take for granted all that He bestowed on us, and we obey what He commanded because we love Him. Is that living under the Law? Not for one moment. That’s responding to love with love. And that’s not redundant.

Must we Confess to be Forgiven? (2 of 3)

Matthew 6 12 b

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at whether 1 Jn 1:9 applies to Christians, and my conclusion is that it does. Today we explore why, if God forgave all our sins when we trusted in Christ, do we need to confess something that has already been forgiven.

First, let me affirm that all our sins have been forgiven in Christ:
Eph 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace
• Col 1:14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
• Col 2:13 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,
• 1 Jn 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.

The basis for our forgiveness is our redemption through Christ’s blood. He paid the penalty for our sins so we can be pardoned. In particular, note in Col 2:13 that He has forgiven us ALL our transgressions. All means all. It does not matter whether our transgressions are great or small, many or few, remembered or forgotten, confessed or unconfessed, before or after our baptism, or any other condition, all have been forgiven for His name’s sake, according to the riches of His grace.

Then why bother confessing? Isn’t that redundant? Some preachers have argued it this way, “You don’t need to ask for forgiveness because you are as close to God as you can possibly be, raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:6). Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).” Some even claim, “we are so intricately linked with Christ that when we sin, Christ is there. The whole Trinity is there with us.”

I find statements like these which mix truth with personal assertions to be dangerous and misleading to those young in the faith. We have become united with Christ (Rom 6:5), but not in a way that we are not distinguishable from Him. When we sin, of course God is there, as He is omnipresent. However, we do not drag Christ along by virtue of our union, as some seemed to imply, since God cannot sin. Nothing can separate us from God’s love, but that doesn’t mean God is as pleased with us as ever. When we sin, we grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30), and our fellowship is hurt.

Positionally we have all we need in Christ. When we received Christ, He gave us the right to become children of God (Jn 1:12). He is able also to save forever we who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for us (Heb 7:25). But the same Lord who gave us our position in Him also taught us to pray:
Mt 6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
• Lk 11:4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.

It has been suggested that asking for forgiveness was before Christ’s death on the cross, which changed everything from that point onwards. It is not needed after the cross. Although I agree that the cross is pivotal, I don’t believe asking for forgiveness to be no longer applicable. Would Christ teach His disciples to pray in a way that has meaning only for the three short years before the cross, and is irrelevant afterwards? For that matter, are all of the Lord’s teaching prior to the cross superfluous, not just for the Twelve, but also for all Christians thereafter? Most of what the Lord taught were before the cross, few after the resurrection. Are they all unnecessary? I don’t think so.

(To be continued)

Must we Confess to be Forgiven? (1 of 3)

1 John 1 9 b

Q. I read a well-known pastor expounding on 1 Jn 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” He said John was addressing Gnostics in this verse, and it does not apply to Christians. We were already forgiven once-for-all and do not have to confess and ask God to forgive us again. Do you agree?

A. I do not doubt that John wrestled with Gnosticism in his first epistle, but I do not believe that he was addressing only Gnostics and not Christians. I believe the identity of the recipients of the epistle should primarily be based on clues within the text itself, and only secondarily on historical background. The following clues are conclusive:

• There is no direct address of the readers in chapter 1 except “you” in 1:2, 1:3 twice, and 1:5. The first mention is in 1 Jn 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you … Remember there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original letter, just the entire letter written on a scroll. There was no abrupt change in the narrative to indicate that John changed from addressing one group in chapter 1 to another group in chapter 2, so a natural reading of the text would assume that the same readers (little children) were addressed throughout. The term “little children” is not literal but figurative, with the elderly John intimately addressing Christians.

• The group “little children” is expanded in 1 Jn 2:12-14 to include “fathers” and “young men”. These life stages do not refer to physical age, but spiritual experience:
* Little children – sins forgiven, know the Father;
* Fathers – know Him who has been from the beginning;
* Young men – overcome the evil one, strong, word of God abides in you.
There is no doubt that they represent Christians at different levels of maturity.

1 Jn 2:20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One. Do Gnostics have an anointing from the Spirit? I don’t think so. Only Christians do. Rom 8:9 But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

• This is reinforced in 1 Jn 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. John called his readers “brethren” i.e. fellow believers.

1 Jn 4:4 You are from God, little children. The “you” were stated as “from God”, which Gnostics obviously were not.

• Finally, in 1 Jn 5:13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. The “you” are those who believe in Christ and have eternal life, not Gnostics.

Based on the above, I believe John was addressing Christians throughout his letter, including 1:9. He warned them about some of the Gnostic heresies in chapter 1, but he wasn’t applying 1:9 to Gnostics only. While I believe we are forgiven all at the cross, I think the well-known pastor’s premise is wrong. His deduction process is faulty. I will comment further tomorrow.

(To be continued)

Are Christians under the 10 Commandments? (2 of 2)

10 commandments 8

(Continued from yesterday)

Yesterday we looked at the reiteration of the first 5 of the 10 Commandments in the New Testament. Today we look at the sixth to the tenth.

6. Ex 20:13 You shall not murder.
• Mt 5:21-22 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
• Mt 19:18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS;
• Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20;
• Rom 13:9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

7. Ex 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.
• Mt 5:27-28 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
• Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20;
• Rom 7:2-3 For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man.
• Rom 13:9

8. Ex 20:15 You shall not steal.
• Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20; Rom 13:9;
• Eph 4:28 He who steals must steal no longer

9. Ex 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
• Mt 19:18; Mk 10:19; Lk 18:20; Rom 13:9;
• Eph 4:25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, SPEAK TRUTH EACH ONE of you WITH HIS NEIGHBOR, for we are members of one another.

10. Ex 20:17 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
• Lk 12:15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed;
• Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? 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.”
• Rom 13:9

Note that all 10 are repeated in the New Testament. Sometimes you hear the argument that Jesus repeated them before the cross; after the cross the Lord fulfilled all the requirements of the Law, which are no longer necessary and have been set aside. However, notice the citations in the epistles are all after the cross. The Lord did fulfill the Law, but He did not abolish them:
Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
The cross is:
so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:4).
So my opinion is that the 10 Commandments are still applicable to Christians. Christ fulfilled them and therefore we fulfill them in Christ. But that’s not the same as saying they are no longer needed and we can ignore them.

Are Christians under the 10 Commandments? (1 of 2)

10 commandments 1

Q. I read a book by a famous author who claimed that Christians are under grace and not law. We are not under the 10 commandments. What’s your opinion on this?

A. Christians are under grace and not law:
Rom 6:14-15 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!
but that does not mean we flaunt our freedom in Christ and ignore the 10 Commandments. This is because the 10 Commandments were repeated as necessary in the New Testament:

1. Ex 20:3 You shall have no other gods before Me.
• Mt 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’” (Lk 4:8)

• The words were spoken to Satan, but not for him alone.

2. Ex 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, …
• 1 Co 10:7 Do not be idolaters, …
• 1 Co 10:14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
• 1 Jn 5:21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols.

3. Ex 20:7 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, …
• Jas 2:7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

4. Ex 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
• Mt 12:5 Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?
• Mt 12:12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
• Mk 3:4 And He said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. (Lk 6:9)

• The Lord interpreted that doing good on the Sabbath is lawful and keeps it holy. We do not keep the letter of the law like the Pharisees do, but we abide by the spirit of the law by worshiping God on the Lord’s Day.

5. Ex 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, …
• Mt 15:4, 6 For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TOBE PUT TO DEATH.’ … he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. (Mk 7:10)
• Mt 19:19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
• Mk 10:19 You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’” (Lk 18:20)
• Eph 6:2 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER

(To be continued)

Is God Partial?

Joshua 9 14 a

Q. Achan took some of the things under the ban and God punished Israel (Josh 7:1). The men of Israel did not ask for the counsel of the Lord and made a covenant with the Gibeonites (Josh 9:14), but God did not punish them. Is God playing favorites?

A. No. There is no partiality with God (Rom 2:11). In Achan’s case, the Israelites were specifically warned right before they conquered Jericho:

Josh 6:17-18 The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the LORD; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.

Achan coveted and took the mantle from Shinar, the silver and the gold (Josh 7:21). He sinned defiantly and must be punished, which affected the whole community.

In Joshua’s case the rules were different. Cities of nearby nations are to be utterly destroyed, while cities of faraway nations are to be offered terms of peace and subjected to forced labor:

Deut 20:10-11, 15-16 When you approach a city to fight against it, you shall offer it terms of peace. If it agrees to make peace with you and opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall become your forced labor and shall serve you. … Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not of the cities of these nations nearby. Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.

The Gibeonites somehow knew of and took advantage of this law to deceive the Israelites. They lied about being from a far country, and provided dry bread, old wineskins, worn clothing and sandals as fake evidence. The Israelites did not ask for the Lord’s counsel and were deceived. This is a classic example of:
Prov 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
which the Israelites failed miserably.

Since this is not a case of willful defiance but unintentional sin, the Lord did not punish them for their disobedience, but allowed them to suffer the natural consequences of their folly. Apparently they learned their lesson well, as:
Josh 11:19 There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle.

Are House Churches Biblical?

house church 3

Q. My pastor has reservations against house churches because he said they are not biblical. He believes they should join a more formally organized church. What do you think?

A. House churches are biblical:

Rom 16:5 also greet the church that is in their (Prisca and Aquila) house.
• 1 Co 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.
• Col 4:15 Greet the brethren who are in Laodicea and also Nympha and the church that is in her house.
• Phil 1:2 and to Apphia our sister, and to Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in your (Philemon) house

At least 3 house churches are mentioned by name in the NT. In the early church, when Christians were persecuted, there were no institutional church as we know it. Christians gather at the temple or house to house (Acts 2:46), or at the synagogues. The church as an institution comes later when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Even now, in many restricted access countries, churches exist as house churches. To say that house churches are not biblical is narrow North American thinking. The Church is people, not an organization or building.

Are Pentecostals a Cult?

Pentecostalism

Q. Should I warn people against going to Pentecostal churches? I know that Pentecostal is a cult. Can these church goers still claim salvation if they don’t partake in speaking in tongues and faith healing?
In your experience, is distributing Christian tracts a waste of time?

A. It depends on which branch of Pentecostal churches you’re referring to. There are about 740 known Pentecostal denominations in the world, not counting independent churches not grouped as denominations. Of these, 630 denominations (85%) are considered evangelical, 30 (4%) as fringe, and 80 (11%) as cultic. We can’t generalize by looking at the minority and say all Pentecostals are cults.

Historically, Pentecostalism originated from the Holiness Movement at the beginning of the 20th Century. The doctrines were Wesleyan or Methodist, and the main denominations include the Church of God in Christ, the Church of God, Cleveland, and the International Pentecostal Holiness Church. A second branch developed from those with a Baptist background, and included the Assemblies of God, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and the Open Bible Churches. These two branches make up the evangelical arm above.

A third, smaller branch started in the UK, consisting of the Apostolic Church which some consider fringe, as they claim living apostles and prophets. Finally there is a fourth branch called Oneness Pentecostals which reject the Trinity and believes in Jesus’ Name only. They include the United Pentecostal Church and the Apostolic Pentecostal Church (not to be confused with Apostolic Church), and are considered cultic.

Can the church goers claim salvation if they don’t partake in speaking in tongues and faith healing? Of course they can. Salvation is granted by grace and received by faith in the finished work of Christ alone. It is never based on tongues or healing. Countless Christians trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord & Savior and became children of God, but never spoke in tongues or had the gift of healing, or received it.

In my experience, distributing tracts is not the best evangelistic tool, but it is not a waste of time. We have seen seekers coming to faith in the Lord through reading tracts. I prefer doing evangelistic Bible study, or using Evangelism Explosion. or using the Gospel Bridge myself, but I distribute tracts too. God can and will use whatever means to bring people to Himself. Hope this helps.

Tests of Salvation (2 of 2)

assurance 2

(Continued from yesterday)

2. Attitude – love
1 John 3:14-15 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
• 1 John 3:18-19 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him.
• 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

You will exhibit increased love for brothers and sisters (fellow Christians), your neighbors (not just literal), and even your enemies. You have received forgiveness from God and will learn to forgive.

3. Spirit
1 John 3:24 The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
• 1 John 4:13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
This is crucial, because:
• Rom 8:9 But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

The Spirit living in your heart helps you to do what you can’t do in your own strength.

4. Belief
1 John 4:6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (i.e. have discernment)
• 1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

This is important because your beliefs control your behavior.
• Prov 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

There are other tests throughout the Bible, but 1 John is a good measuring gauge. The four areas cover your:
• Mind – what you believe,
• Hands – what you do, your conduct,
• Heart – what you feel, your commitment,
• Spirit – your innermost being communing with the Spirit of God,
i.e. your whole person. Everything will change because you are now a new creature:
2 Co 5:17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
But growth takes time, so be patient. Hope this helps.