29 November 2018

The Pillar and Ground of Truth

The Bible teaches that the church is the pillar and ground of truth. The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy so that he 'may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth’ (1 Timothy 3:15).

The church is pictured like a pillar and ground, upholding and supporting God’s revealed truth. The apostle identifies the church as God's household; he is referring to every true Christian, not only to their leaders. The whole church - all Christians - are collectively the pillar and buttress of truth. Throughout history, God’s people upheld the truth by believing, proclaiming and defending the gospel, by their godly conduct, and sometimes with their blood. That is also our duty today.

Paul calls the church, not the Bible, ‘the pillar and ground’ of truth. Being the Word of God, the Bible is not merely ‘the pillar and ground,’ but the ‘truth’ itself. Jesus prayed to the Father, ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth’ (John 17:17). In other words, the mission of the church is to faithfully defend and proclaim the teaching of the Bible. It follows that an indispensable mark of the true church is its faithfulness to the gospel. A ‘church’ that has departed from the truth and is teaching another ‘gospel’ is a fallen pillar and sinking ground.

Catholic apologists frequently quote 1 Timothy 3:15 to attack the supreme authority of Scripture and to defend the supposed infallibility of the Roman Catholic magisterium.

Consider well the implications of this verse. You must consciously make a presupposition and draw an important conclusion. If you assume that ‘the church’ refers to the Roman Catholic bishops and not to all Christians, then ‘the truth’ is whatever the Roman magisterium teaches. But if you believe that ‘the truth’ is the gospel message recorded infallibly in the Holy Scriptures, then the lofty claims of the Catholic magisterium must be tested by the Scriptures.

This is my sincere appeal to all Roman Catholics. Test all things, including the teaching of the magisterium. Ask yourself whether the Bible teaches salvation by grace and merit, by faith and works, by Jesus and Mary, as Rome insists; or whether salvation is by grace apart from the merits of our works, through faith in Christ Jesus alone. Ephesians 2:8-10 and Acts 4:12 are a good place to start.

(Gospel e-letter - December 2018)

1 November 2018

Salvation and Works

Salvation is by grace through faith. No-one is saved by the merits of his deeds. Whoever attempts to merit salvation by his works cannot completely rely on Christ by faith. On the other hand, good works are the necessary accompaniment to genuine faith. Whoever claims to have faith but has no works is fooling himself.

So, we are not saved by our good works. We are saved by the work of Christ on the cross. Yet we are not saved without good works, for God's work of salvation in the believer includes the creation of a new heart that is obedient to his Lord, bearing much fruit to his glory.

Even the thief on the cross, in the brief time available, and with obvious limitations, revealed the saving grace of God in his heart by doing good deeds, both in rebuking the other thief for his folly, and by publicly identifying himself with the despised King of the Jews. Similarly, the jailer in Philippi was performing good works as soon as he believed in Christ for salvation; welcoming Paul and Silas in his house, washing their wounds, submitting to baptism, and giving them food.

Please read carefully what the Bible says on this matter:

"God will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good" (Romans 2:6-10).

Who, according to the above passage, will be saved? And who will be damned?

Furthermore, please read the words of Jesus Himself:

"Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment" (John 5:28-29).

Who, according to Jesus, will partake of the resurrection of life? Who will be condemned?

Those who claim to believe in Christ for salvation, but their life is devoid of love and holiness, and indeed is full of all sorts of evil and hypocrisy, are still lost in their sins. The Bible insists that “the grace of God” that brings salvation is the same grace that trains us "to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age" (Titus 2:11,12). If the life of the professed believer is not transformed, there is no saving grace at all.

The teaching of salvation without good works is a travesty of the Gospel that damns people to hell.

(Gospel e-Letter - November 2018)

1 October 2018

The Sinner's Prayer

Someone wrote to me, “You say that you believe and that you are saved right now. I suppose this is the result of some form of prayer said with sincerity and published by some Protestant or Evangelical group.”

I would like to share my response about this important issue.

No, I am not saved because I said a prayer. Many wrongly assume they are saved because they said the "sinner's prayer" or because they went forward in an evangelistic meeting or signed a card. This false idea is not much different from the Roman Catholic doctrine that a person is born again by submitting to water baptism. It is arguably worse than baptismal regeneration, for Christ did command his disciples to be baptized, but He never conditioned salvation on walking up an aisle and repeating a formula.

The truth of the matter is that salvation is not something that humans do, but something that God does for and in us. Salvation is of the LORD (Jonah 2:9). The prayer for mercy, faith, repentance, obedience to baptism, love and holiness issue from a new heart that the Lord grants to undeserving sinners. Salvation is not something we can earn or achieve. God, the one and only Saviour, declares: "I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion." Therefore the Scriptures conclude: "So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy" (Romans 9:15,16).

We are the lost, helpless sinners, and we cannot by our will or action attain salvation. We are totally dependent on the sovereign mercy of God. In the Bible we don't read about the lost sheep seeking and finding the shepherd; rather we only read how the Good Shepherd seeks and finds the lost sheep.

You seem to be surprised that I claim to be saved right now. Yes, I do have eternal life, and I know it. How so? Am I being presumptuous? No, rather, I am confident in the Word and promises of God. You know John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." By God's grace, I believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I trust in Him for my salvation. I know my faith is genuine because I love God and seek with all my heart to obey His commandments.

Now, since I believe in the Son of God, the Bible assures me that I "have everlasting life." Eternal life is my present possession. I thank God for His amazing love -- all glory to Him!

The so-called "sinner's prayer" can be an expression of true faith in response to the Gospel message and the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. On the other hand, the "sinner's prayer" could also be the occasion of terrible self-deception because the unrepentant and unbeliever could be easily induced by to parrot a few religious sentences. A million sinner's prayers will not keep you out of hell unless you truly believe in the Lord Jesus, as evidenced by a consistent life of practical holiness and love.

(Gospel e-Letter - October 2018)

1 September 2018

Images of Christ

What shall we say about the paintings and statues of Jesus? Apart from any artistic value, let us be frank about them: they are just the imaginations of artists and sculptors, they are not true images of our Lord.

What does the Scripture say about this subject? We believe that in the incarnation, the eternal Son of God also became a man. His contemporaries saw and touched him, and spoke to him. We do not have that privilege.

The Bible gives us a glimpse of his physical appearance: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). The glory of Christ was not in his physical look. Moreover, during his passion, many people were appalled by him because his face was so disfigured that he did not seem like a man (Isaiah 52:14). Jesus endured the horrendous ordeal of the cross to redeem his church.

It is no surprise that the church loves her Beloved Saviour, and lives with the hope of his appearing. But for now, the church has to wait. What the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians, still applies to us today: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8). At present Christians “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

But someone might object, “Personally I don’t see anything wrong with images of Christ. I feel that they teach me and help me to worship him.”

Consider, my friend, what you are saying. How come you find nothing wrong with false images of Christ? What do they teach you but lies? How can you give true worship with a false image? Why do you ignore the Word of God that states: “you do not now see him”? Why do you insist on seeing him even though it’s a fabricated image?

I exhort all who desire Christ: put away these vain paintings and statues. Instead, let us daily read and meditate on the Scriptures because they speak of him. Though the Scriptures the Holy Spirit reveals his glory, and thus we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we eagerly await his glorious appearing.

(Gospel e-Letter - September 2018)

1 August 2018

The Wrath of Jesus

I believe in the God of mercy, grace and love, but I also believe that he is the God of justice, holiness and wrath. Indeed the Lord shows both mercy and wrath; mercy to his elect, wrath to the wicked, both now and for eternity in hell.

Even when he extends mercy to his people, God does not ignore his justice. God can only justify sinners by faith because Jesus paid the penalty for their sins on the cross.

The Bible warns unbelievers that they are already under the wrath of God. ‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him’ (John 3:36). Elsewhere the Scripture says, ‘the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness’ (Romans 1:18).

Sadly, many people remain hardened in unbelief and impenitence, not realizing that they are stocking up wrath which will be poured on their heads on the day of judgement:

‘But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed … for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger’ (Romans 2:5, 8). We would be fools if we ignore God’s warning of the coming judgement: ‘Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient’ (Ephesians 5:6).

The Bible gives us a glimpse of the terrible retribution upon sinners on that day. They called to the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!’ (Revelation 6:16).

We don’t often hear these days about the wrath of the Lamb; many people prefer the soft and affable caricature of ‘Jesus’. Notwithstanding such fantasies, the Lord Jesus will execute God’s wrath on the world. ‘Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron sceptre. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty’ (Revelation 19:15).

The same Lord Jesus is the only cover and protection against God’s righteous wrath and indignation for us sinners. We who truly believe in him can rest assured that since we have now been 'justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him' (Romans 5:9). We are not terrified by God’s judgement, for 'we wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath' (1 Thessalonians 1:10); 'For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

On that momentous day, what will the Lord Jesus show you? Mercy or wrath? Will he take you in his arms or will he stamp you under his feet?

(Gospel e-Letter - August 2018)