Friday, October 31, 2008

True Reformation

True reformation always results in a return to sound doctrine and a reorienting of our lives to God's truth as found in His Word. True reformation will necessarily then result in a separation from strange doctrines and those who preach and perpetuate them. Not only does truth unite those who receive it and believe it, it also divides those who receive it and believe it from those who don't. There is a move today in many quarters to produce a "new reformation" that will unite under what one does rather than what one believes. Rick Warren put it this way:

You know, 500 years ago, the first Reformation with Luther and then Calvin, was about beliefs. I think a new reformation is going to be about behavior. The first Reformation was about creeds; I think this one will be about deeds. I think the first one was about what the church believes; I think this one will be about what the church does.The first Reformation actually split Christianity into dozens and then hundreds of different segments. I think this one is actually going to bring them together. Now, you're never going to get Christians, of all their stripes and varieties, to agree on all of the different doctrinal disputes and things like that, but what I am seeing them agree on are the purposes of the church. And I find great uniformity in the fact that I see this happening all the time. Last week I spoke to 4,000 pastors at my church who came from over 100 denominations in over 50 countries. Now, that's wide spread.We had Catholic priests, we had Pentecostal ministers, we had Lutheran bishops,we had Anglican bishops, we had Baptist preachers. They're all there together and you know what? I'd never get them to agree on communion or baptism or a bunch of stuff like that, but I could get them to agree on what the church should be doing in the world. And the way I expressed it is that the Bible calls the church the body of Christ, and what's happened in the last 100 years is that the hands and the feet have been amputated and the church has just been a mouth, and primarily it's been known for what it's against. It's been known for what it's against. And I am working toward a second Reformation of the church which could create a Third Great Awakening in our nation or world...(source).

However, this wouldn't even come close to true reformation but will result in a counterfeit reformation with an ecumenical and ungodly alliance between believers and unbelievers (see 2 Corinthians 6:14-16). We don't need a new reformation, we need to get back to the old one!

The Pyromaniacs have a great post on the reformation entitled The Bedrock of the Reformation. Check it out!

Happy reformation day!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Purpose of Apostasy and the Antichrist

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the coming apostasy and antichrist is from God's perspective? What is it that God will accomplish by causing these evils to bow down and serve Him for His good, acceptable, and perfect will?

Listen and find out:

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Call to Arms...Jude 3-4: About the Aim

So far in our studies of the letter of Jude we have learned about the author – that Jude was saved; that he was a servant; and that Jude was serious (1a). We have also learned about the audience and their unique position as believers, who had been effectually called into the kingdom of God through the gospel; who were the special objects of the love of God the Father as the beloved; and who were kept or preserved for Jesus Christ (1b).

Today we learn about the aim of Jude’s letter (3-4) – that it is a call to arms; a rally cry for those who are kept for Jesus Christ to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God which has been entrusted to the saints. This is a reminder to the saints that we are in a war for truth, a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, and that we are to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ the Captain of the army. The Christian life is a battleground and not a playground and we are not volunteers but we have been chosen and enlisted by the Lord Himself.

Here we see three aspects of Jude the soldier of Christ: (1) Jude’s important desire, (2) Jude’s impelling necessity, and (3) Jude’s imperative reason.

Jude’s important desire (3a) – “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation….” Jude had set out to write an encouraging letter about the common salvation of the saints. This is a very important theme and is a noble and important desire for pastors to teach their people about the glorious truths of their positions as saints. After all, what we do and how we live should be determined by who we are in relationship to our position. Therefore the truth about our position as saints should serve as a motivator for us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.

Doctrine determines duty or to put it another way belief determines behavior. This is why the apostle Paul began his letter to the Ephesians with the doctrine of who we are in Christ before he ever gave our duties as believers in Christ. A careful reading of Ephesians tells us both who we are and how we should conduct ourselves – and it is interesting that even in the book of Ephesians that our calling and blessings in salvation are to result in our victorious stand in the battle for truth.

While it is an important and necessary desire to teach the saints about our common salvation so that they can walk in a manner worthy of the gospel, it is also important for them to be reminded that based on their position that they are to war in a manner worthy of the gospel. As a pastor I would much rather encourage the saints than to declare war on apostates but the two must go hand in hand.

Jude’s impelling necessity (3b) – “…I felt the necessity to write you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude had no more than began to write his encouraging letter that he intended to be a discussion on the blessings and benefits of our common salvation that he was compelled or compressed into going another direction. The Spirit of God changed Jude’s mind and laid on him the necessity to write about the battle against the forces of evil which were rapidly gaining a foothold in the church. Jude was impelled by the Holy Spirit and the circumstances of apostates infiltrating the church to the extent that it was necessary for him to sound the trumpet.

What was it that the Holy Spirit impelled Jude to write to the saints? Jude was impelled to write an exhortation or an appeal. In the Greek language, the word for exhort or appeal was used to describe a general giving orders to the army. In other words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Jude called on the saints to engage in the battle for truth and especially as it pertains to the body of truth, the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints. The saints have been given the responsibility from the Lord to guard and fight for the faith. The apostle Paul spoke of guarding or fighting for the faith many times in his letters to Timothy. Guarding the doctrine and keeping the gospel pure against the strange doctrines of the apostates and false teachers is a primary responsibility of pastors but it is also a primary responsibility of every Christian. The church is supposed to be the pillar and support of the truth and the only way to accomplish this is to guard the truth and battle for the truth.

We are told that we are to earnestly contend for the faith. Earnestly contend comes from a word from which we get our English word “agonize.” The word speaks of a vigorous intense, determined struggle to defeat the opposition. In other words we are to strain with every fiber of our being in this battle to maintain the purity of the faith without letting it be spoiled or corrupted by apostates and their strange doctrines. We are to exert ourselves to the point of agony in an effort to win the battle for truth. Jude tells us that it is with such intense effort that the saints should defend the doctrines of Christianity.

The exhortation was to earnestly contend for the faith. The faith here is not faith as exercised by the individual, but the body of truth pertaining to Christianity in its historic doctrines and life-giving salvation. In other words we are not seeking some new revelation but to be true to the historic doctrines of God which was once for all delivered to the saints. It is our responsibility to seek the ancient paths and to be sure that what we believe and are preaching, and teaching is in line with the Word of God. God is keeping us and we are to keep or guard the truth of the Word of God.

All the cults and false religions and I should also add apostate religions have abandoned the truth of God’s Word and are not keeping or guarding it but corrupting it with destructive heresies. They come up with new revelations and new interpretations although God’s Word plainly says that the body of truth has been once for all handed down to the saints. God has said what He needed to say and there isn’t going to be any further revelation. Muhammad was a liar, Joseph Smith was liar, and all who claim to have divine revelations of heaven or hell or anything else is a liar. If we want a divine revelation I suggest we read God’s divine revelation – His Word. God’s Word is not only His divinely inspired revelation of truth; it is totally sufficient in all areas of rule and practice. We do not need to look to the psychologists, anthropologists, or sociologists to see how we are to do church or grow the church – we only need to look to the Word of God and the historic truths of Christian doctrine.

Jude’s imperative reason (4) – “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude now gets to the reason that we must earnestly contend for the faith – the stealth of the enemy whose desire is to dilute, distort, and defile the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Notice how Jude characterized these apostates – “for certain persons have crept in unnoticed.” They use stealth. They enter alongside by stealth and deceit. They slip in secretly. They have the ability to go undetected by the radar. In other words they claim to be Christian and claim to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t misinterpret this passage. The way these people deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ is not through an outright denial but by turning His grace into licentiousness. They could not have crept in unnoticed with an outright denial of the Lord. They actually claim to be His servants and claim to speak His word. They disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). It is the responsibility of the church leaders to guard the flock (Acts 20:28-31) and the responsibility of the saints to be alert.

Jude also characterized these apostates as marked out for condemnation – “those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation.” The word of “marked out” is prographo and it means to write beforehand. God’s word tells beforehand the nature of the apostates and their coming judgment. Before it ever happened, God’s word told of the activity of the apostates who would sneak in and corrupt the meaning and application of God’s word thereby incurring a just and rightful condemnation for such ungodly activity. There is no excuse for apostates who twist God’s word because He has already said beforehand that they would and that He would judge and condemn them.

Another characterization that Jude gave of the apostates is that they are ungodly – “ungodly persons.” Ungodly is one of Jude’s key words in this letter. He used it six times in these twenty five verses. Ungodly means destitute of reverential awe toward God. This means that these people have no fear of God and that they reject His authority. Apostates will have nothing to do with the Lord as absolute ruler but would rather think of Him as their buddy who is interested in their happiness and not their holiness. Apostates want Jesus Christ as Savior but not as Lord. They want Him as a means to be used for their health, wealth, and prosperity but not as the ruler of their lives. They are ungodly!

The apostates are also transposers – “who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” By turning the grace of God into licentiousness, the apostates replace one thing with another. In this case they put licentiousness in the place of the grace of God. This is a redefinition of biblical grace into that which is not biblical and not intended. Licentiousness is nothing short of anarchy by giving the right to do whatever one pleases as though God’s grace allows such activity. Turning the grace of God into licentiousness turns the grace of God into a license to sin rather than a motivator to live righteously (Titus 2:11-12). Therefore, turning the grace of God into licentiousness becomes a denial of the rule and authority of the Lord in our lives. It becomes a denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Apostates “deny our only Master and Lord - “master” is from the word despot and means absolute master or ruler. The apostate views the Lordship of Jesus as a King with absolute or unlimited power as that which is oppressive. Therefore the apostate views the absolute rule of Jesus Christ as a type of tyrannical and oppressive rule. So the apostate recoils against salvation as an issue of Lordship and rejects the Lord’s authority choosing instead to replace God’s grace which gives us the power to live righteously under the Lordship of Jesus with licentiousness which is nothing short of anarchy.

So these persons are ungodly and without reverential awe of God and deny His absolute authority by turning His grace into licentiousness. Apostates claim to know Jesus Christ but they have not and will not receive Him as the King of God’s kingdom. Apostates don’t teach the doctrine of the Lordship of Jesus but rather undermine it. Apostates want Jesus as Savior but not as Lord. We must guard against such destructive heresies!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dark Shadows of the Antichrist...necessary conditions before the antichrist comes.

There are at least two major and necessary conditions that are harbingers to the coming of the antichrist. Before the antichrist comes there must be at least in the makings a one world all inclusive religion made possible by what the Bible refers to as the apostasy and a one world unity as the result of a new world order, also known as globalization.

The apostasy will be a form of religious pluralism and necessitates a turning away from the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. The apostasy will result in an inclusivism that allows unity and partnership with other religions irregardless of doctrinal beliefs. Apostasy therefore will be in direct violation of the gospel and its exclusive nature (that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved - Acts 4:12) and in direct violation of God’s Word concerning partnership with false and apostate religions (2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Therefore the apostasy with its ecumenical movement necessitates a wrong focus on the purpose of the gospel and a wrong focus on the purpose of the church.

The new world order will be a form of world unity which includes partnership of governments and world religions in an attempt to cure the world’s problems and bring about world peace and prosperity. The new world order or globalization will result in a one world economy of which the antichrist will seize control (Revelation 13:17). Globalization will result in a one world government which will be a form of socialism with the foundation of philosophical humanism (man’s happiness). Both the apostasy and globalization will be a return to the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9).

Where are we in the process? How far along is the world in achieving religious pluralism and globalization? Who is having the greatest effectiveness in achieving these two necessary conditions that are harbingers to the coming of the antichrist? Who is casting the darkest shadows of the antichrist?

Listen and find out!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Unique Position of Believers...Jude: About the Audience

We have already learned about the author – that Jude was saved, a servant, and he was serious. Salvation results in being persuaded about the kingdom of God and His appointed King Jesus Christ – in other words salvation always results in being persuaded about the rule of God through His Christ. So salvation always results in our humble submission to and desire to be ruled by Jesus Christ the King who died for our crimes and rose from the dead in order to transform us and guide us. Salvation through the gospel makes us into willing servants of the King. And as servants of the King we are serious because service to His Majesty matters!

Today we learn about the audience – those to whom and for whom Jude wrote his letter. Here we clearly see the biblically defined characteristics of those saved by the power of the gospel and the unique position of believers.

To those who are the called….” The first characteristic of the saved is they are the called. In order to understand this characteristic we are going to have to distinguish between the general call of God and the effectual call of God.

The general call of God goes out to many but doesn’t necessitate, constitute, or guarantee the salvation of all who hear it. The general call of God is His invitation to salvation that He sends out to many through His servants who proclaim the gospel. However, the general call of God can be ignored, shunned, rejected, and even improperly received by those who are invited (Matthew 22:1-14). So we see in the Scriptures that many are called but few are chosen – indicating that the general call of God is not effectual for all who hear it.

The effectual call of God however results in the gospel being the power of God unto salvation for those who believe because they have been chosen by God for salvation. The apostle Paul put it this way after speaking to the Thessalonians about the apostasy and the coming of the Antichrist that must take place before the Lord Jesus gathers His saints to Him – “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). So the general call of God is the effectual call of God only for those who have been chosen by God from the beginning for salvation. So the saved who are referred to as the called are those who were invited through the gospel, made willing by the effectual call of God to receive that which by nature one rejects – namely Jesus Christ as King and his or her self as loyal servants who love and adore the King – and thereby proven to be chosen. Only the chosen are effectually called through the gospel and the gospel is the only way that God calls those whom He chose. God’s choosing and God’s calling go together, for the God who ordains the end (our salvation) also ordains the means to the end (being called through the gospel). It is for this reason that we do not use gospel gimmicks but rely solely on the gospel without being ashamed of it – for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

“…beloved in God the Father….” The second characteristic of the saved is they are beloved by God the Father. Here the Greek word is agapao and it means beloved or loved ones. Some translations say, “to them that are sanctified by God the Father….” While there is a different Greek word for “sanctified”, hagiazo, don’t fret. Even the word beloved has in it the idea of being set apart as the special objects of God’s love. The beloved are the permanent objects of God’s love. God’s love for His elect was demonstrated in the past through His self-sacrificing love shown at Calvary (Romans 5:8), it is demonstrated in the present through both His care for them and discipline of them (1 Peter 5:7 and Hebrews 12:5-6), and it will be demonstrated in the future and for all eternity through His delight in them and His salvation of them.

“…and kept for Jesus Christ.” The third characteristic of the saved is they are kept for Jesus Christ. The word “kept” means to preserve. Kept means to guard, to hold firmly, to watch or keep. The saints are the objects of God’s permanent, preserving, watchful care. God the Father is keeping the saints for His Son! Not only does the Bible tell us that God the Father is keeping the saints, it also tells us that Jesus Christ is keeping the saints (John 10:27-29). The eternal security of the believer is not a dangerous doctrine as some believe but it is a delivering doctrine which allows the saints to put on the full armor of God including the helmet of salvation and enter the battle for truth with courage. Any who would turn the doctrine of the security of the believer into an excuse to sin rather than the encouragement to stand for truth, is an apostate who turns the grace of God into licentiousness (Jude 4). The saved are called, beloved, and kept.

Because they are called, beloved, and kept, the saints as the King’s soldiers are the recipients of God’s choicest blessings: mercy, peace, and love – “May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you."

God in His mercy does not give us what we deserve. Instead He gave our punishment to His own Son, the King, on the cross. This means that God is for us and not against us – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:31-34). Mercy be multiplied to you!

Because of Christ’s work on the cross, believers enjoy peace. Peace is to join together that which has been separated. Therefore peace is a reunion that is based on the putting away of enmity between two separated people. Peace is not just the absence of war; it is the absence of any reason for war. Therefore genuine peace is always based on purity and purity is the putting away of enmity. I’m speaking of the actual putting away of enmity and not the turning of a blind eye to it. Many in our day believe that God is going to turn a blind eye to their enmity and crimes against Him and have even been told by the false prophets, “Peace, when there is no peace.” However, God does not have a blind eye! As long as a man has not repented and Christ is not his King he has no peace with God no matter how much he believes that God is not going to do what He says He is going to do. Only those who are saved have peace with God – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace be multiplied to you!

The saints also experience God’s love. God’s love is poured out within the believer’s heart – “because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). The cross is God’s demonstration of love (Romans 5:8), but His love is not experienced within until His Spirit comes into the believing heart and makes it real. As the believer grows in his spiritual life, he enters into a deeper relationship of love (John 14:21-24).

Certainly those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior enjoy a unique position. They are called by God, beloved in God and kept by God for Jesus Christ that they might enjoy mercy, peace, and love from God. What a special place believers have in the heart and plan of God!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Why So Serious?

The letter of Jude is short, only twenty-five verses in length, but it is very serious. The first half of verse one tells us about Jude, the author of the letter. "Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James" (Jude 1a). Here we see three characteristics of Jude the author and the reason for his seriousness.

First, Jude was saved!

Jude is short for Judas. This Jude was the brother of James and both were the brothers of the Lord. Matthew 13:54-56 and Mark 6:2-3 establish the truth that this Jude was Judas the brother of James and also they were the half brothers of Jesus. There was a time when the brothers of the Lord didn’t believe in Him (John 7:2-5). There was a time when the Lord’s brothers thought that He had lost His senses or was out of His mind (Mark 3:20-21). So there was a time when both Jude and James didn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

However, Acts 1:14 reveals that they did become believers as do their letters. Both James and Jude considered themselves saved by signifying their spiritual relationships to Jesus Christ as their King – “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1) and “Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ…” (Jude 1). Jude also said, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation…” (Jude 3). Both Jude and James refused any special regards based on their physical relationships to Jesus – because it gave them none – but emphasized their spiritual relationships by regeneration – being born again! Therefore the salvation of James and Jude was identical to and in common with any who would ever be saved.

Next, Jude was a servant!

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ.” Bond-servant is duolos and means slave or bond-slave. The bond-slave has no rights except to do his master’s will. Our relationship to Jesus Christ as a bond-servant or bond-slave is indicative of the reality of regeneration with Jesus as the King and us as his subjects. This means that none of the Lord’s physical family had any special privileges or exemptions in regard to their positions under the Kingship of Jesus Christ. Even Mary His mother had to yield to Jesus Christ as her Lord. And indeed Mary did consider herself a bond-slave of the Lord (Luke 1:26-55).

Our salvation always results in our being persuaded about the kingdom of God and His King. It always results in our humble submission to the authority of Jesus Christ over our lives. And indeed, the government of our lives shall rest on His shoulders. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep and He is the Great Shepherd who was raised from the dead to direct our lives. He is the Chief Shepherd who is coming again to remember us in His kingdom. All subjects of the King are servants of the King. We must never forget that our salvation has placed us back into proper relationship with God – we as His loving and loyal servants; He as our loving, leading, protecting, providing, gracious, and glorious King.

Those who are saved are also servants of His Majesty the King.

Third, Jude was serious!

Seriousness always marks those who are saved and who are serving their Lord. Being a bond-servant of the Lord is a serious matter. After all, He will Himself settle accounts with all men and judge us according to our faithfulness – “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Jude did not call himself an apostle but distinguished himself from them, saying, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (17). So seriousness in the matter of serving the Lord was not for apostles only but is for all who are bond-servants of Jesus Christ.

Jude’s seriousness is clearly seen in this little letter of twenty-five verses. He wrote it under special restraint or necessity as he tells us in verse three. Jude had to deal with the serious and disturbing topic of apostasy although he would have rather written a more positive letter on the topic of our common salvation. Surely many in our day would say that Jude was too serious even to the point of being unloving and unkind in this short but sharply severe letter. However when we consider the deadly and deluding dangers of apostasy with its destructive heresies which undermine and deny the majesty and glory and grace of our Lord and thereby deceiving and destroying souls, we actually see that Jude’s seriousness was not too severe, nor unkind, nor unloving, but exactly what is called for at such a time.

The seriousness of Jude in his day of apostasy speaks with special force to our own times in this day of wide-spread apostasy. For way too long the enemy has had unguarded entrance into the fellowship of the beloved until his secretly introduced heresies have become incorporated, encapsulated, and now propagated as though they are the absolute gospel. We are living in a very dangerous age, beloved, and this is not a time for peace but a time for war. This is not a time for slackness but a time for seriousness. This is a time for those who are saved by the Lord, and are servants of the Lord, to be serious for the Lord. And this we will do by knowing the truth and guarding the truth; by earnestly contending for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Understanding the End-Times and the Antichrist

I for one believe that there is much confusion and even deception regarding the end-times, the coming of the Antichrist, and the church’s relationship to these events. While I do not understand or know everything about this subject, I do understand and know that the Word of God is clearer on this subject than all the confusion and deception indicates. The problems that we have in understanding the end-times has everything to do with our lack of knowledge of God’s Word and nothing at all to do with a lack of clarity or accuracy of God’s Word. Therefore it is our responsibility to study and know God’s Word, allowing it to renew and transform our minds, while not imposing our own wishes and ideas on this subject. We are to let God’s Word inform, instruct, and transform us in every branch of theology at the expense and destruction of our own preconceived ideas that we might bring to the table. We are to let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. God’s Word is truth because He is truth and He only speaks truth.

As to the confusion and deception regarding the end-times, the coming of the Antichrist, and the church’s relationship to these events there are many errors but two main ones. These two main errors are polar opposites of each other.

One extreme is to disregard the subject all together as either unimportant or unknowable as though God hasn’t made it clear or else He hasn’t really said that much about it. Those in this camp might refer to themselves as “pan-believers” – they believe that it will all pan out in the end. While that is true it reveals a lackadaisical and dangerous attitude. There is actually great benefit in knowing the difficulties that we must face and great danger in not knowing. The Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples of the future persecution and enmity that they would face for His name’s sake just before His crucifixion (John 15:18-27). Immediately after speaking to them about their future difficulties He said, “These things I have spoken to you so that you may be kept from stumbling” (John 16:1). Far too many “pan-believers” may find themselves to be unbelievers when they stumble because of the difficulties and persecutions that they were not prepared for. For the “pan-believer” I would suggest a careful reading and understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 with special focus on verse five – “Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?”

The other extreme is to devote all one’s energy to this subject alone and detach from the whole counsel of God. While the Bible has much to say on this subject, it isn’t the only subject and shouldn’t be treated as such. I have found that those who devote themselves almost entirely to the subject of end-times perpetuate more error concerning it than they do truth. The reason for this is simple – our growth in understanding the Word of God is progressive. There are lessons that must be learned and truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth. The Lord Jesus put it this way in Matthew 13:11-12 – “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” The Lord also put it this way, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). So for those who are overly intrigued with end-times I would say two things: (1) if you are going to properly understand the end-times and not be deceived then you must take the time to learn the truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth. (2) I would suggest a careful reading and understanding of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5 with a special focus on verse 3 – “Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction.”

What are the lessons that must be learned and the truths that are foundational to receiving and understanding more truth? The way I see it there are there are two primary categories of theology with one being foundational and the other fundamental that directly affect the category of eschatology (doctrine of the end-times). We need to keep in mind that if one errs in the foundational category this will alter the fundamental category and corrupt our final category.

Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation/gospel) is foundational. This is the first and most important lesson to be learned if we are to receive and believe more truth. We must know what God’s truth is concerning the gospel and how men are saved. We must receive and believe what God has revealed about Himself, about man, and about His Son. While we will not go into detail here on everything that is entailed in the doctrine of salvation, let me summarize some non-negotiables in it: God is holy, He is just, He is righteous, He is unchanging, and He will not compromise with sin. Man is a sinner, he is depraved, he is impotent, and he is ungodly. Man deserves to receive the wrath of the Almighty for his rebellion and anarchy against the rule of God in his life. God in His grace, mercy, and love has provided only one way by which He can justify sinful man while He Himself remains just and that is through His own sinless Son, living a life of perfect obedience, suffering the penalty of death for crimes that he didn’t commit in the place of those who did, and then being raised from the dead and exalted as the King of the kingdom of God so that we would be broken and repentant over that one act of love - the King died for me! This results in our no longer living for ourselves but for Him who loved us and gave Himself up for us. We confess that He is Lord and that we are not and we obey Him because we love Him. Salvation is a matter of loving submission to the Lordship of Christ because He first loved us. Only the gospel has the power to cause the transformation of totally depraved rebels into loving and loyal servants of the King.

Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) is fundamental. If we are going to know the truth about God’s purpose for His church then we must know the truth about the gospel. Those who don’t understand the doctrine of salvation are doomed to not understand the doctrine of the church. If one departs from the Word in the doctrine of salvation his next logical step is to defile himself with the world in his doctrine of the church. Here is how it works: when men do not understand the doctrine of salvation/gospel and reject God’s revealed truth about Himself, man, and God’s Son, he will resort to gospel gimmicks and turn the church into a man-centered gathering place rather than a God-centered equipping place. Instead of being the pillar and support of the truth and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry (which once accomplished will produce men and women who are able to stand against the schemes of the devil in this evil age), the church becomes the pillar and support of lies and the gathering place for unconverted sinners in some form of social organization.

Without a proper understanding of the doctrine of salvation the doctrine of the church becomes altered and then the perfect recipe for apostasy is brewing. As soon as men depart from God’s Word in the area of the doctrine of salvation they will quickly defile themselves with the world and the world’s methods in their evangelism and in their doctrine of the church. It doesn’t take long for this to be passed from one generation to the next as though this is the truth and then apostasy is perpetuated as the truth. No wonder we are warned to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.

Soteriology is foundational and ecclesiology is fundamental. That brings us up to our final category and here we can now see that eschatology (the doctrine of end-times) is fathomable. In other words it is understandable once you understand how it is possible for men to depart from God’s Word and defile themselves with the world and thereby promote and perpetuate apostasy. Here is the reason apostasy is such a deluding and deceiving influence – it has the numbers. When you have departed from God’s Word and defiled yourself with the world you will deceive yourself with your works because the world loves its own and will join you.

As time marches on and fewer and fewer churches are true churches which are not ashamed of the Gospel and are the pillar and support of the truth, training and equipping Christians to stand against the schemes of the devil, then apostasy has a freer and more unhindered influence. This is what God’s Word says about end-times – “Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

What is God going to do about apostates who will not receive the truth so as to be saved? Enter the Antichrist!For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false (the lie), in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

For many, the apostasy and the Antichrist before we are gathered together to the Lord, is unfathomable. That is because their eschatology is corrupt and their ecclesiology has been altered based on the truth that they have erred in their soteriology. All of this must be understood if we are to receive and believe the truth about the end-times and the Antichrist.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Ancestry of the King...His Divine Heredity

Matthew 1:16 and 18 makes it clear that Jesus Christ’s birth was different from that of any other Jewish boy named in the genealogy. Matthew pointed out that Joseph did not “beget” Jesus Christ. Rather, Joseph was the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus who is called Christ. Jesus was born of an earthly mother without the need of an earthly father. This is known as the doctrine of the Virgin Birth.

It is the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ that proves that God is His Father and that He Himself is God and not just another man. Had Jesus have had an earthly father then we wouldn’t believe in His deity (that He is God). Had Jesus came into the world without the agent of an earthly mother then we wouldn’t believe in His humanity. But the virgin birth proves that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.

It is surely no accident that the beginning of Matthew’s gospel is devoted to establishing both the regal humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus’ being both human and divine, there is no gospel. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the central fact of Christianity. The essence and power of the gospel is that God became man and that, by being fully God and fully man, He was able to reconcile men to God. Jesus’ virgin birth, His substitutionary atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and return are all integral aspects of His deity and the gospel.

After establishing Jesus’ human heredity, Matthew proceeded to establish His divine heredity.

First there was a miraculous conception (1:18)

In His birth Christ was conceived in a borrowed unused womb. We will see that in His death Christ was buried in a borrowed unused tomb. In this section of Scripture we see how God operates. He chooses the things that are not to shame the things that are. He chose Mary and Joseph, two godly but unknown and poor young people, to bring the King of glory into the world. We are reminded in First Corinthians chapter one that God operates in this fashion and that in His choosing us it wasn’t because of our being somebodies but because of our being nobodies. O what a Savior!

This verse makes it plain that Joseph was not the father of Jesus Christ. Joseph was Jesus’ legal earthly guardian-father. Mary and Joseph had been betrothed. To the Jewish people in that day, betrothal (engagement) was equivalent to marriage – except that the man and woman did not live together. They were called husband and wife and at the end of the engagement period the marriage was consummated. If a betrothed woman became pregnant, it was considered adultery.

Second there was a natural misunderstanding (1:19)

Joseph knew that he hadn’t had relations with Mary and yet she was pregnant. But because he was a “righteous man” he didn’t want to disgrace her and planned to send her away secretly. To send away means to divorce.

Legally Joseph could have divorced Mary and had her stoned for adultery but he showed grace and because of it he himself would soon become the recipient of grace – the grace of the Lord Jesus. Because Joseph was a righteous man he was in a predicament. He knew he shouldn’t go through with the marriage but he also knew that he should show grace – so what was he to do?

Third there was a divine explanation (1:20)

While considering what to do the Lord answered Joseph’s predicament by giving him an explanation of what was going on – Mary was pregnant by an act of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was given a couple of commandments in his dream from the angel – (1) do not be afraid and (2) take Mary as your wife. Joseph, the son of David, would be included in the glorious privilege of the arrival and raising of the King.

Fourth, the King’s divine heredity was proven in His names and His birth fulfilling prophecy (1:21-23)

The virgin will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus. The name Jesus means “Yahweh is salvation.” Jesus is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Joshua. The name Jesus was given to our Lord by God. He would be named Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.

All this took place so that what was spoken of through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Immanuel translated means, “God with us.” This One is God. He is God in flesh and God with us. Jesus is His human name; Christ is His official title; and Immanuel describes who He is – He is God! The King was a Jewish male who was also the divine Son of God.

Finally there was obedience to the commands of the Lord (1:24-25).

After Joseph awoke from his sleep he took steps of obedience that are always necessary to be included in the blessings of God. Notice the verbs of action that characterize obedience – he did; he took; he kept; he called. He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary as his wife, he kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son, and he called His name Jesus.

Matthew has given conclusive proof that Jesus Christ is the Son of Man and the Son of God who alone is the King of kings and Lord of lords. The question is – is Jesus your King? Do you love and serve Jesus as King because He first loved you and gave Himself up for you?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The King's Prophesies Fulfilled

Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts. The purpose of the Gospel of Luke was to give an account of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach in His physical body. The purpose of Acts was to give an account of all that Jesus continued both to do and to teach through the Holy Spirit and His spiritual body, the church, after His ascension. Luke’s Gospel tells of the Jesus’ finished work on Calvary; Acts tells of Jesus’ unfinished work of proclaiming His finished work through His church in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts shows us the progression of the Gospel of the kingdom of God and His King, from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth, in light of national Jewish rejection of the King. In Acts we witness the gradual removal of the kingdom of God from the Jews based on their continued rejection of the renewed offer to receive Jesus Christ its King and the giving of the kingdom of God to the Gentiles who would produce the fruit of it by receiving Jesus Christ as King and living under His rule and authority.

In Matthew chapters 21 and 22 the Lord Jesus gave three prophetic parables to the Jewish nation showing their past, present, and future rejection of the kingdom of God and its King. Acts 28:28 is the complete and final fulfillment of the future rejection by the Jewish nation to receive Jesus Christ the King of the kingdom.

The Jews’ Past Rejection of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 21:28-36)

The majority of the Jews rejected God’s invitation through His prophets who sought to turn them to the kingdom of God and its King. They refused to repent and believe. They said that they were willing to do God’s will but wouldn’t do it. However there were some of those who said that they were unwilling to do God’s will that after hearing His invitation felt remorse and believed and entered into the kingdom.

In verses 33-36 the Lord showed the history of the nation’s past in continuously rejecting the invitation to receive the King and enter the kingdom. A truth that Steven powerfully made just before he was stoned to death in Acts 7:51-52 – “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.”

The Jews' Present Rejection of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 21:37-44)

In verses 37-39 the Lord showed the Jews’ present rejection of the kingdom of God by rejecting its King and killing Him. At this point in Matthew’s Gospel the Jews were less than a week away from crucifying the Lord of glory.

In verses 40-44 the Lord showed the Jews and from their own judgment the righteous judgment of God on those who would reject and despise the reign of God through His Son. The kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a nation that would produce its fruit.

The Jews’ Future Rejection of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 22:1-14)

In verses 1-4 there was a renewed offer to receive the King and His kingdom prophesied. Those who had in the past rejected the offer through the prophets and in the present rejected the offer through the Son were in the future going to be given one last invitation through the apostles and witnesses of the Lord.

In verses 5-6 there was a continued rejection of the King and His kingdom prophesied. This rejection of the King and His kingdom was manifest in both the Jews lack of concern for the things concerning the kingdom of God (verse 4) and a hatred for those issuing the invitation (verse 5). In essence the King prophesied the persecution and martyrdom of His apostles and witnesses during the church age.

In verse 7 the destruction of Jerusalem was prophesied as a result of the national Jewish rejection of the King and His kingdom fulfilling the judgment of the apostates in 21:41. This literally happened in A.D. 70 through the Roman General Titus and his armies.

In verses 8-10 the removal of the offer to the Jews with its replacement by an offer to the Gentiles was prophesied and this found its full and final fulfillment in Acts 28:25-28 which was also a fulfillment of Matthew 21:43.

In verses 11-14 the improper and irreverent application of the invitation by many was prophesied. This speaks of the apostasy and the turning of the grace of God into licentiousness during the times of the Gentiles in the church age – “For many are called, but few are chosen” (14). Therefore we are admonished – “Brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you…” (2 Peter 1:10).

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Ancestry of the King...His Human Heredity

The Old Testament promised over and over again the coming of a great King who will rule in God’s kingdom. According to the Old Testament this great King would have the character of God Himself (Micah 5:2-4). He would be of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:8-11) and the rightful heir to the throne of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13). This coming great King would have the righteousness, the wisdom, the power, the authority, and the right to reign not only over Israel but over the entire earth.[1]

The whole New Testament acknowledges Jesus as the promised great King and this is initially presented and explained in the gospels, beginning with Matthew. “In the twenty-seven books of the New Testament the term kingdom is used one hundred forty-four times in referring to the reign of Jesus Christ; king is used directly of Jesus at least thirty-five times; and to reign is used of Him some ten times.”[2]

Matthew’s gospel serves as the bridge that leads us out of the Old Testament and into the New Testament. “The theme of the Old Testament is given in Genesis 5:1: ‘This is the book of the generations of Adam.’ The theme of the New Testament is given in Matthew 1:1: ‘The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.’”[3] Jesus the King is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45) and He came to save the “generations of Adam” who rebelled against His kingship.

Matthew’s gospel picks up in verse one with two Old Testament figures, David and Abraham, that God entered into covenant with and will proceed to show that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promises made in each of these covenants. Matthew will show that Jesus is the King, the sovereign Son of David and that as the King He is also the sacrificial Son of Abraham.[4] Here is an amazing truth: the sovereign Lord is also the sacrificial Lamb.

The message of the book of Matthew centers on the theme of Jesus’ kingship and His kingdom. Matthew presents the Messiah King who is revealed, rebelled against, rejected and resurrected.[5] With His resurrection, Jesus as King commissioned His subjects to bring in His kingdom by bringing others to the point of obedient service to Him through preaching His gospel that offers forgiveness through repentance and faith. And for this purpose the King has promised His power and His presence.

Matthew’s key verse, if we were to pick one out, would have to be Matthew 27:37 which says, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” This man Jesus, grew up in the middle of nowhere (Nazareth) with a couple of nobodies (Joseph and Mary). Yet Jesus was the sole legal and rightful heir to the throne of Israel.

Matthew wasted no time in his account of proving that Jesus is the only One who has the credentials to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies of the coming great King who would rule the world in righteousness and redeem His people. Jesus’ genealogy gave proof that He was the rightful heir to the throne and that He was the promised Messiah.

Since royalty depends on heredity, it was important for Matthew to establish Jesus' rights to David’s throne. Matthew 1:1-17 gives Jesus' human heredity and legal right as King to the throne of David.

The King’s Human Heredity (1:1-17)

The first verse of the New Testament is actually stunning. “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” In this one verse Jesus is presented as the Sovereign son of David and the sacrificial son of Abraham. Jesus is not only the Sovereign Lord He is also the Sacrificial Lamb.

For us to get a good grip on what the Holy Spirit is saying to us through the pages of the Bible we need to understand these two patriarchs and the promises made to both of them by God.

First we will deal with David and the promises given to him by God in what we call the “Davidic Covenant.” The Davidic Covenant is found in 2 Samuel 7:12-16. Messiah’s royal line began with David. Through the prophet Nathan, God promised that it would be David’s descendants through whom He would bring the great King who would ultimately rule over Israel and establish His eternal kingdom.

The promise was not fulfilled in Solomon, David’s son who succeeded him, or in any other king who ruled in Israel or Judah; and the people waited for one to be born of David’s line to fulfill the prophecy. The Messiah would be the King of the Jews. He would be the sovereign son of David.

Next we will deal with the Abraham and the promises given to him by God in what we call the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant is found in Genesis 12:1-3 where God promised Abraham that He would bless the nations of the world through Abraham’s seed. Through the seed of Abraham God was going to provide the Messiah to solve man’s sin and rebellion problem by dying as their sacrificial Lamb on Calvary’s Hill. Through the seed of Abraham God would bless the families of the earth.

We are saved today because of God’s covenant with Abraham. “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham the believer” (Galatians 3:6-9).

God promised to bless the nations through Abraham’s seed and in that statement God was preaching the gospel beforehand to Abraham. God would bless the nations through Christ. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16). This is why Jesus told the Jews that Abraham saw His day and rejoiced and was glad in it (John 8:56).

So today, anyone who belongs to Christ is heir to the promises given to Abraham. “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).

Matthew has said that Jesus is the son of David and the son of Abraham and now in verses 2-17 he commenced to prove it. Jesus is linked by blood to both David and Abraham and thus giving us His human heredity. Not only is Jesus the Son of God, He is also the Son of man. Because the promised Christ must be descended from both David and Abraham in order to fulfill Scripture, the documentation of His lineage is critically important.

When it comes to kings, people want to know just where they came from. These lists serve a practical purpose. In a day before the man on the street had his own copy of the Bible, people had to rely on memory and oral history. So Matthew traced Christ’s genealogy in three sets of fourteen generations. The three sets are broken down into those generations : (1) before the monarchy, (2) during the monarchy, and (3) after the fall of the monarchy to Babylon.

Matthew did not mention every single ancestor, but traced the generations in systematic, memorable terms. If the reader wanted more detail, it was available through the temple records. Matthew’s undeniable point was that Jesus of Nazareth is the legal heir to the throne of David! The King was on the scene!

In the course of tracing the generations of the Christ, Matthew tossed in a few surprises to help us begin to see the mercy and grace of God. He included no less than four women in the lineage, a highly unusual approach for a Jewish genealogy! Some of those women were Gentiles! God’s grace is clearly seen in the inclusion of outcasts in the kingdom of God.

Jesus is the Christ, the sovereign son of David, the sacrificial son of Abraham, and the King of the kingdom of God who gave His life as a ransom to make willing subjects. “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence” (Luke 19:27).

[1] John MacArthur Jr., Matthew 1-7 in The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1985), ix.
[2] MacArthur, x.
[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, Matthew in The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. 1 (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1999), 10.
[4] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew in Holman New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2000), 9-10.
[5] Wiersbe, 9.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Truth about Salvation

The most fearful statement in the Bible is that many will go to hell that think they are going to heaven. Jesus said, “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).

Many who think that they are going to heaven are not! Many will be lost who think they are saved. Are you possibly one of those people who are going to be horrified by those words of Jesus when you die? What went wrong? Why are these people rejected from being in the presence of the Lord? Looking at those verses, what reasons can you see for these people being rejected?

Did you notice that going to heaven is not based on what one says (words)? Even many people who say the right things about Jesus are not going to heaven. Even if they call Him “Lord” does not mean that they are going to heaven.

Did you notice that going to heaven is not based on what one does (works)? Even many people who do religious things for Jesus are not going to heaven. Even if they prophesy and cast out demons and perform miracles does not mean that they are going to heaven.

Did you notice the reason Jesus said that many people would be rejected and not go to heaven? Jesus said it is because they are “lawless.” Many people who claim that Jesus is their Lord and who do religious works are actually lawless or “Lord-less.” To be lawless means that a person is Lord of his or her own life. Being Lord of your own life is sin because you are not the King, Jesus is! The Bible says, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

Who is King in your life, you or Jesus? Who do you serve, yourself or Jesus? Do you keep His commandments and do His will or do you do your own thing and lean on your own understanding to guide your life? The Bible says, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).

Two Main Culprits That Are Sending Many People To Hell - Libertinism (Words) and Legalism (Works)

There are two main culprits that are sending many people to hell who think they are going to heaven. The first culprit is the false gospel of libertinism. This is the false gospel of “easy-believism;” of saying the right words about Jesus but not receiving Him as Lord. Jesus said, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). The Bible says, “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him” (Titus 1:16). These people are trying to have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord and they are still in control of their own lives and they do not do what the Bible says for them to do – they are not obedient to Jesus’ commandments.

The second culprit that is sending many people to hell who think that they are going to heaven is the false gospel of legalism. It is the false gospel of “making Jesus Lord;” of doing religious works for Jesus but not receiving Him as Lord. The Bible says that no man can be saved by being good or doing good deeds. “For 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” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And, “By the works of the Law no flesh (mortal man) will be justified (saved)” (Galatians 2:16).

No one can “make Jesus Lord” of his or her life by doing religious deeds and duties. Not by going to church, not by being baptized, not by preaching or teaching or anything else. You cannot “make Jesus Lord” because He is Lord. He will not bow down to you or anyone else for you or them to crown Him and make Him Lord. You must bow down to Him and receive Him as Lord if you are going to be saved.

The two culprits that are sending many people to hell who think that they are going to heaven are libertinism (words), saying the right words about Jesus; and legalism (works), trying to make Jesus Lord. Both groups of people, the libertines and the legalists, have one thing in common – they are lawless and Lord-less and need Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

The Only Way to be Saved - Lordship (Worship)

The Bible gives a clear picture that going to heaven is a matter of lordship – not words, just saying the right things about Him (“Lord, Lord”) or works, doing things to “make Him Lord” but actually bowing before Him and worshiping Him and receiving Him as Lord. This clear picture of salvation being a matter of lordship is given to us in the Bible in Luke 23:32-43. See for yourself what the Bible has to say on the subject of salvation being a matter of lordship (worship).

Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him.
When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.
But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.
And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.”
The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine,
and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!”
Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”
But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”
And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”

No picture is really complete unless it has a proper backdrop and frame. The Bible supplies the proper backdrop and frame for this picture of salvation and the picture will be clearer once we have it in its proper setting. This account in the Bible is the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ who was crucified between two criminals. The two criminals are part of the backdrop of this picture of salvation and it is from their examples that we see some truths about people today.

First, both of these criminals represent all of mankind. All of us have a problem – all of us have refused to serve and worship God as our King; we have refused to do what God has told us proving that we have decided that we would rather be king in our own lives than to let God be King in our lives. “All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:12).

If God had been their King would these criminals have committed crimes or would they have done good instead? What have you done that proves that you have refused to let God be your King? “All have sinned (done their own thing; lawlessness) and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And the Bible says, “The wages of sin (doing your own thing; lawlessness) is death” (Romans 6:23). We all deserve to die and go to hell because all of us have turned from God’s way of doing things to our own way of doing things. We have broken God’s laws and become lawless – living out from under His kingship or lordship.

Second, Jesus warned us in the Bible, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way…” (Matthew 5:25). All of us are on the way to God’s court and must receive an “out of court settlement” before we come to court or we will be thrown into the prison of hell and will not come out of there. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The amazing truth is that God offers us who have violated His laws an out of court settlement if we will receive it before it is too late.

These two criminals were on their way to God’s court. They were being executed and death was going to usher them into God’s presence for judgment. If they were to experience God’s salvation they must receive His offer of an out of court settlement before it was too late.
So we see that we all have a problem – we have all sinned and deserve to die and be locked in the prison of hell for ever. We have all mocked Jesus’ kingship. The Bible shows us that both criminals mocked Jesus’ lordship by their words and their works. Matthew 27:38-44 tells us that the people, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, and the two robbers were mocking and taunting and insulting Jesus because they did not believe that He was really the King. Have you ever doubted that Jesus is really the King? Have you ever denied Jesus by either your words or works or both?

And we also see that just like these two criminals we are all on the way to God’s court and need to receive an out of court settlement before it is too late. The question now is: how does that work? How do we receive an out of court settlement from God?
We get the answer to those questions from this picture of salvation given in the Bible. The Bible clearly shows that salvation is a matter of lordship and that receiving Jesus as King (Lord) and Savior is God’s out of court settlement.
Here is how it works:

One criminal changed his mind about Jesus and began to believe that Jesus really was the King – “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, ‘Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?”

He admitted that he was guilty and receiving what he deserved – “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds.”

He realized and admitted that Jesus was innocent and had done nothing wrong – Jesus was dying for crimes He had not committed – “but this man has done nothing wrong.”

He confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord (King) – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” Only kings have kingdoms.

He believed in his heart that God would raise Jesus from the dead – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” He knew that Jesus was being executed and was going to die but he also believed that God would raise Him from the dead and that He would come again.

He called on the name of the Lord – “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.”

The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord (King) and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness and with the mouth he confesses resulting in salvation. And whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:9-10, 13). The word “confess” is not the same as the word “profess.” The word “confess” means “to say the same thing as another,” or “agree with another.” So to confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord does not mean just to say or profess, “Lord, Lord,” but it means to agree with God that He really is Lord and to prove it by being sorry over your sin, asking Him (Jesus) to forgive you, and serving Him as Lord.

Do you agree with God that Jesus really is Lord? Do you agree with God that you are not Lord? Are you sorry for having lived out from under His all-wise and all-loving lordship? Are you willing to ask Him to forgive you?

The word “believe” does not mean to just understand some facts about something or someone in your head but it means to “trust.” Do you trust that God raised Jesus from the dead? Do you believe that Jesus is a trustworthy King and reliable Governor of your life? Do you trust yourself and your own goodness to get you to heaven or do you trust Jesus and His goodness to get you to heaven?

Have you ever “called” on the name of Jesus for Him to forgive you and save you? That does not mean that you have prayed and asked Him into your heart but it means that you have prayed and asked Him to include you when He comes in His kingdom. This means that you have asked Him to be your Lord (King). This means that you want to be one of the King's subjects, loving, honoring, and obeying Him because of His love for you.

God’s out of court settlement is His own Son. “For God so loved the world (you), that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes (trusts) in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus, the only One who has never sinned, paid your sin debt for you. I urge you that if you have never received Jesus as your Lord (King) and Savior then today, make friends quickly with God by calling on the name of Jesus and receiving His forgiveness and the salvation that He offers.
The criminal that died and went to hell wanted Jesus as Savior – “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But notice that he did not want Jesus as Lord (King). If he would have wanted Jesus as Lord (King) he would not have tried to command Jesus what to do but like the other criminal who went to heaven he would have submitted himself to Jesus and received Him as his King.

Have you tried to have Jesus as Savior but not as Lord? Repent, and call on Him to save you and He will. Have you tried to have Jesus as Lord but not Savior? Have you tried to “make Him Lord?” Repent, and call on Him to save you and He will.

He is Lord and Savior and we must receive Him for who He really is. Genuine salvation is not words (what we say about Jesus); it is not works (making Jesus Lord); but it is worship (receiving, trusting, and serving Jesus as Lord and Savior).