Richard has a vaguely Christian background — Jesus died on a cross, like that. He never really thought about it much, but he lost his job three months ago, and this week he’s not going to make his mortgage payment. Not knowing what to do, he took a long walk to try to clear his head, and happened to pass by the church on a Sunday evening. People were going in, and he thought, “What the heck? Nothing else is working.”
So he sat through the service. Didn’t know any of the songs, but it sounded sort of nice. A little weird, to be honest — something about Jesus shining, and a fountain filled with blood. But they seemed like nice folks. Then, somewhere in the course of the sermon, the pastor said this:
We were dead, separated from God. But Jesus came to give us life! People talk about Jesus dying on the cross, and that’s important, but many miss what it was all for. He died our death so that He could give us His life — and He gives it as a gift! We couldn’t earn it, and we don’t have to. When we believe on Him, He gives it to us. The barrier between us and God is lifted, and we begin a new life with God that lasts forever. Even after we die, we go to live with Him.
Richard never heard this before, but for some reason he couldn’t really explain, it felt like someone had hit a gong inside his chest. It was true; he knew it was true. Right there, sitting in the back, he believed.
What’s wrong with that scenario?
Absolutely nothing. Not a thing. God saved Richard by grace, through faith, apart from works, so that Richard would have nothing about which he could boast. All the credit and glory belong to God. That’s Ephesians 2:8-9.
Christ saved Richard so that Richard could be united to His Body, the Church, and join in its labors: doing the good works that God commissioned us to do from the beginning.
What’s wrong with that way of describing it?
It’s Ephesians 2:10.
Jesus has an agenda, and He is carrying it out. When He saves you, He unites you to Himself, and He is moving His Body with purpose, a purpose that will be accomplished: revealing the manifold wisdom of God to heavenly principalities and powers and growing itself up to match the full stature of Christ, the Head.
It is this Jesus, and no other, that promises you everlasting life as a gift, unto His glory alone. He can make that promise because His purposes for you will be accomplished, and in the accomplishing He will be glorified. The promise can’t be separated from the Person, and when you try, you dishonor your high calling, shame the name of Christ, and become a walking contradiction.
Which is to say that it’s bad to try to chop Ephesians 2:10 off of Ephesians 2:8-9. What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. So let’s not — not even in theory.
Great post Tim, hope all is well with you.
I like that bro. Tim. I can surely agree, & it resonates with me. In fact, as I look back over how the Lord has worked in my life I can see a lot of His working a lot clearer NOW than I could THEN. As I think of this, I believe it may be at least part of the reason I had some confusion there for awhile, since I was so introspective, & of corse I still am, but it made things seem unclear to me. Anyway, that’s teh problem with looking back ratehr than to Christ. Anyway, thanks to all of you my brothers & sisters here & I appreciate you all.
You said: “The promise can’t be separated from the Person, and when you try, you dishonor your high calling, shame the name of Christ, and become a walking contradiction.”
Exactly! So why do you keep trying to separate Jesus from His promise, Tim?
To believe in Jesus is to trust the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.
Or, if you prefer,
To trust in Jesus is to believe the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus.
You said: “He can make that promise because His purposes for you will be accomplished, and in the accomplishing He will be glorified.”
No, He can make that promise because He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and in that FINISHED work He has ALREADY been glorified apart from anything we ever do or don’t do:
“Jesus spoke these things, and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, ‘Father, the HOUR HAS COME; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work which you have given me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.’ ” (Jn 17:1-5)
What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. So let’s not — not even in theory. Amen.
I think you guys need to get the Gospel of John straight before you evangelize anyone. Zane saw the real problem out there. Probably 90% of professing Christians believe in a faith plus works salvation so that is why Zane was stressing the first part Eph 2:8,9 because the majority was putting verse 10 as evidence of 8,9. Just like Jim wanting to put justification together with sanctification to an UNBELIEVER:(
Most of my evangelizing because of ALL the confusion out there I offer the gift of eternal life as a gift they can take freely. I emphasize that children of God are born, but disciples are made. I use the little tract by Bob Bryant and Zane Hodges “the best news you’ll ever hear…” It goes through the cross work and concludes with either way you choose not to follow Christ or to follow Christ you still have everlasting life and will never perish.
Now if I am discipling a believer I make clear to them it’s down right stupid to live in the fleah, what you sow you will reap, so why not reap life:)
I don’t. I’m trying to remedy a situation where the promise is being touted apart from any understanding of the person making the promise. Apparently I haven’t been clear enough for you, and I’m sorry about that. But you’re misreading my intentions significantly here, and to be honest I think it’s partly due to the fact that you aren’t giving me a fair reading.
Not really an either/or. You will be glorified, and you will live on the New Earth instead of the Lake of Fire, and you will, in the end, be part of the glorious Bride that is presented to Christ. This is part of Christ’s purpose for you, and if He can’t guarantee it, then He can’t make good on His promise. Of course none of this would be possible without Him being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See? Not an either/or.
But let’s look a little deeper. The Cross is a finished work, and yet the sin of the world is not, in fact, taken away (you may have noticed). It’s still very much a sin-full world: His enemies are not yet made His footstool, and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord does not yet fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. If Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, there is still work to do, isn’t there? And His Body is invited to be part of that work, are we not?
I subscribe to the novel idea that one must emphasize Eph. 2:10 as much as Paul did. Putting v.10 as evidence of vv.8-9 is wrong, of course, but leaving it off is equally unfaithful to what Paul actually wrote. Why is it a problem for you if someone is just faithful to the text as it’s written?
As to getting John’s gospel right: Getting significant chunks of John’s gospel wrong hasn’t stopped a number of folks I could name from having an effective, albeit truncated, evangelistic ministry — God strikes straight blows with crooked sticks, and glory to Him for all of it. As to me having it wrong, you’re welcome to demonstrate that any time you like. So far, you haven’t done very well, in spite of repeated invitations to engage on John 2, John 8, John 9…I could go on. How about it, bro? We gonna have that discussion, or what?
Tim said: “I don’t. I’m trying to remedy a situation where the promise is being touted apart from any understanding of the person making the promise. Apparently I haven’t been clear enough for you, and I’m sorry about that. But you’re misreading my intentions significantly here, and to be honest I think it’s partly due to the fact that you aren’t giving me a fair reading.”
Could you be more specific about exactly WHO is touting the promise “apart from any understanding of the person making the promise”? You’re right, you’re NEVER clear enough for me—and that’s a HUGE problem that you need to accept full responsibility for.
Tim said: “Not really an either/or. You will be glorified, and you will live on the New Earth instead of the Lake of Fire, and you will, in the end, be part of the glorious Bride that is presented to Christ. This is part of Christ’s purpose for you, and if He can’t guarantee it, then He can’t make good on His promise. Of course none of this would be possible without Him being the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. See? Not an either/or.”
Nothing you’ve said here has ANYTHING to do with Eph 2:10. All these things are guaranteed to every believer by the finished work of Christ APART from works–and that includes Eph 2:10 works. See? Not an either/or.
Tim said: But let’s look a little deeper. The Cross is a finished work, and yet the sin of the world is not, in fact, taken away (you may have noticed). It’s still very much a sin-full world: His enemies are not yet made His footstool, and the knowledge of the glory of the Lord does not yet fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. If Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, there is still work to do, isn’t there? And His Body is invited to be part of that work, are we not?
Yes, there is work to be done and we are invited,, but again, could you be specific about who you think is denying that? But regardless, none of our work will ever come close to accomplishing what only the Lord Jesus Himself must do at His second coming, i.e., stop the world from being sinful (or even ourselves!), nor make His enemies His footstool, nor make the knowledge of the glory of the Lord fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. What you’re suggesting sounds like some kind of “realized eschatology”, postmillennialism, or the sapiential eschatology of the liberal theologian John Dominic Crossan. Whatever your eschatology is, I’m afraid your going to end up very disillusioned one day, Tim.
A quick further thought:
So if I’m reading you correctly you’re saying that Zane’s particular emphasis was a heuristic response designed to address a certain problem in a certain segment of the population. That’s a necessary thing, but it’s a terrible mistake to absolutize something like that and make it What It’s All About, don’t you think? Leaving aside the question of whether Zane’s way of hitting the question was the best, or even the only, way to do it, there are other segments of the population and other problems that need addressing.
One of the ones I’m trying to address is that within the putative 10% of the Christian population that gets it right, there’s an overwhelming tendency to overlook astonishing failures to love one’s neighbor, as long as the guy has all his doctrinal ducks in a row. 2:10 becomes more than a little important in that context.
Whatever my lack of clarity may be, your determined insistence to read me in the worst possible light is a factor as well. I’ll try to be as clear as I can, but you’ve got to meet me halfway — no amount of clarity will overcome hermeneutical bad faith and ill will.
When we say that the essential gospel message is “Jesus gives everlasting life to anyone who believes in Him for it,” and then our short answer to “Who is Jesus?” is “The giver of everlasting life,” — do you see the problem there? The question is not actually getting answered; we’re just making a tautology: “Jesus [=the giver of everlasting life] gives everlasting life to anyone who believes in Him for it.” That covers how you get it (believing, as opposed to works) — and as Alvin pointed out, that was the major emphasis Zane was working toward.
But it doesn’t really answer the question “Who is Jesus?” And I don’t think FG has grasped what a good answer would look like, let alone come up with one.
You wrote: “Nothing you’ve said here has ANYTHING to do with Eph 2:10. All these things are guaranteed to every believer by the finished work of Christ APART from works–and that includes Eph 2:10 works.”
No, you need to read Eph. 2:10 properly. “We are His poiema [singular, “work of art” or “creation”], created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The poiema is a singular entity — the Church. Taken together, we are a singular creation made for good works — and the Church will fulfill Christ’s purpose. The calling to individuals is to walk worthy of that purpose (see 4:1-6) instead of being dragged kicking and screaming into it — and as he says, that means doing the good works God prepared for us, which befit the destiny God prepared for us.
Regarding your last point: I may sound like Crossan, postmillennialists, and other theological bogeymen as well (for example, you could add Ron Sider, Rob Bell, activist Jesuits, and all the evangelical hipster churches that are big into social justice). Lots of people quote those passages, and lots of them abuse those passages, true enough. But DUDE, I’m quoting the Bible. You don’t get to ignore the passages just because bogeymen quote them — do you bracket out Psalm 91 because Satan once quoted it?
So if I sound like various people who quote the Old Testament, I also sound like the Old Testament, and you need to reckon with that, brother. Those passages mean something, and you’re writing them off way, way too quickly.
So what are you saying? That the work God invites us to do ultimately doesn’t matter? That it will ultimately be ineffectual and irrelevant to accomplishing His purposes for the world? That Christ’s Body will never mature beyond the level of fingerpainting on newspaper, while Christ is painting a Mona Lisa that will make all the Body’s work irrelevant? You don’t believe that Christ could ever mature His church to a point that mattered, this side of the resurrection?
I like what you are saying. We should emphasize the promise of eternal life (justification) just as equally as we should emphasize the promise of eternal life (sanctification).
The only problem I see here is the contradiction between these two statements:
” . . .that we SHOULD walk in them (good works).” – Paul (Eph. 2:10)
“When He saves you, He unites you to Himself, and He is moving His Body with purpose, a purpose that will be accomplished: revealing the manifold wisdom of God to heavenly principalities and powers and growing itself up to match the full stature of Christ, the Head.” – Tim
I’m not entirely sure that that is the point of Ephesians 2:10. Isn’t Paul encouraging a group of believers to do right thing (unity) because they are not? Isn’t he saying, “you have been justified; therefore, you SHOULD walk in the truth.”
Yes, in future glorification we will all magnify God and do good works, etc.
But there is no gurantee that our sanctification will come about in this life. That is why Paul says, you “SHOULD walk in them.”
“We should emphasize the promise of eternal life (justification) just as equally as we should emphasize the promise of eternal life (sanctification).”
Yes! And I love the way you put that.
re. Ephesians 2:10:
I read the ina+subj. in 2:10 as expressing God’s purpose in preparing the good deeds in question. I wouldn’t see the grammar as helping either side of the debate over whether an individual believer merely should, or actually will, make good on that.
But note the play between corporate and individual language: “We (plural) are His poiema (singular), created (plural) in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God prepared beforehand that we (plural) should walk in them.”
Everything I said in the bit you quoted is true of the singular poiema, which is my point. As Paul makes quite clear in the second half of the book, whether a given individual lives up to the calling inherent in being a member of the poiema is another question. Some do; some don’t.
Here are some clues for you, see if you can figure it out?
Jesus came to the temple early in the morning (John 8:2), and didn’t leave until (John 8:59). We have no reason not to believe that the Woman caught in adultery did not hear all of these conversations, and may have been one of the ones who believed in John 8:31. The law did its job in verses 2-9 by shutting their mouths (see Rom 3:19). Jesus came to set the captives free, and this Woman caught in adultery was a captive to sin by being under the law (see 1 Cor 15:56; Gal 4:1-5). In the very next verse (John 8:12) Jesus gives her instructions for a lamb who hears His voice (see John 1:4; 10:27-28; 3:21). In John 8:13 these Pharisees had already rejected John’s light, and now was rejecting Jesus light, (John 1:24-29; 3:21; 5:31-47). If you follow the “you” in John 8:28, you will see the ones who are going to lift Him up are the ones who’s father is the devil in verse 44, (see 28,34,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,49,51,54,55,58 “you”). The “you” in verse 31 is directed to the ones who had “believed in Him.” Those ones who had believed in Him now had life, but to be set free from sin they would need to learn they were no longer a slave to the law but were set free to live as sons of God, (see John 12:35-36; 6:68; 9:5; Gal 4:1-5). Now in John 8:33 “they,” not only thought they kept the law, but thought they were sons of Abraham, but didn’t realize only in the physical sense so therefore were slaves, (see John 7:19; Gal 4:1-5). The mystical union as you call it had not yet taken place as Jesus alluded to in John 7:38,39 which would not take place until Pentecost where the believer would be baptized into Christ by the Holy Spirit. Redemption being “in Christ~!” The gospel of John was written for the purpose the unbeliever may have life so the emphasis is not on mystical union which was to come later. This is why were not to put the cart before the horse. Someone who does not have the gift of life can do nothing, and even though they are being drawn by the light there is NO life UNTIL they believe Jesus promise of life ( see John 3:15-16,36; 20:30,31; also see 2 Tim 1:1; 1 Tim 1:16; Acts 13:42 “these words,” 46-48 eternal life is the basic element of salvation vr.47).
I’m running out of time so here is a quick overview of John 9:1-10:21.
Gary, pointed out to me there is an inclusio which shows that John 9:1 to 10:21 is one unit (9:1 He saw a man who was blind from birth, open the eyes of the blind), (also see 9:40 Pharisees who were with Him- are we blind also- vrs7 Jesus said to them again, vrs.9 saved, see John 3:16,17 where saved is parallel to eternal life and condemned is parallel to not perishing). So the blind man was present when Jesus talked about the sheep Knowing His voice (see 10:4), and giving them life (see John 10:10). But, before he could have abundant life he needed to be made alive with the gift of eternal life which must be taken freely as a gift FIRST.
Also you seem to forget that Ephesians is written to ones who ALREADY have everlasting life, so it’s writing to believers who have ALREADY counted the cost, and are learning to walk in that new Life.
Also the salvation that is being spoken of in Ephesians is being united to Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection which is MORE than the gift of eternal life, but is being saved by His life. That is progressive sanctification worked out in the life.
Work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. And this has to do with rewards, which is debt~!
The Father gave the Word words to say which are everlasting life, the Spirit brings forth that Life when believed.
(see John 12:49,50; 1:1,4; 6:63; 1:12)
God spoke to me though a cat’s meow . . . .ha~!ha~! There has been a stray older cat around our house for the last six months or so. It will meow at our window at night, and when it does we know it’s hungry. It meowed tonight. I thought about that a bit, and on the turn around of my trikke ride earlier today there was a girl who said, ‘that looks like fun~!’ But, I did not hear that cry so I did not think about her hunger. So I didn’t give her words of life, because I didn’t hear her cry~! She was crying I just couldn’t hear her. I know that God put her in my path so that I would give her food, but I went away and left her hungry. God puts these people in our paths so that we will give them His words of life. We need to hear their cry. The simple words of life a child would hear, and understand is what she needed for the Holy Spirit to bring forth life. She didn’t need a theology but simple food she could eat~! I know if I give her Jesus promise of life and she believes it, I’ve given her enough because He always keeps His promise when believed:) But, just like the cat I filled the small bowl up so that her tummy would be full through the night. In the same way I want to give the child crying the reason why Jesus can keep His promise, He died for her that she may have life, and NEVER hunger and NEVER thirst:) (see John 6:35)
Yeowch, seriously? The woman was caught in the very act of adultery and dragged down to the temple. Whereupon, Jesus says “Go and sin no more.” And as far as you can tell, she stayed? Having been publicly humiliated in the very center of town and told to go, she stayed there? I don’t think so, bub. Feel free to prove it if you can, but I think you’re just making stuff up.
Second, the text is silent on the matter. You need her to have stayed, or John’s purpose — as you would have it — is compromised. Jesus delivered a sanctification command and then didn’t even tell her about the promise of life before she left. You’d never do that. But then, you would make a huge point out of the fact that she stuck around to hear the promise, lest anyone get the wrong idea. Did you notice that John doesn’t do that? He doesn’t care about this as much as you do, which is a clue that John’s emphasis is not yours. Problematic, that.
Wow. Tell me you didn’t mean that. Especially the “so” part. They already have everlasting life, and therefore they’ve already counted the cost? Which of MacArthur’s works did you get that little gem from?
Feel free to prove that; I don’t think you can. When Paul says “by grace you are saved” in Ephesians, he means the same thing that John means by “…shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” “Saved” in Romans means something else, but this ain’t Romans.
re. your cat post: I don’t mind the reminder at all, but do you suppose for even a moment that anybody here disagrees with that?
The cat post was just something that happened yesterday and I was sharing with your readers.
Hey I think you are making things up bub, you seem to be able to read her mind . . . how about if she is a sheep and hears His voice . . . you think she’s going to run away? You don’t know dude . . . . you are thinking as if God is not working in her life~!
And concerning Epheasians I’m not arguing that saved there is not in the past tense what I’m bringing in is the whole context of the union with Christ lifted up. That is the believer has already been delivered “in Christ.”
Ephesians isn’t written for the purpose of the unbeliever to have life where works is an expected result of taking the gift.
I got a question Dude . . . do you hate cats? Tell the truth~! If your a very controling person you cant stand cats because they wont do what you tell them. If you are that way you need to go buy a couple cats just for the therepy~!
I love cats! But I can’t eat a whole one…
Seriously, we had a cat when I was in high school, and I loved him until I figured out it was his fur that was making me sneeze my head off constantly. I’m a little less cat-friendly these days, but it’s nothing to do with their independence and everything to do with their dander. I’m enough of a control freak that I really dig unobstructed breathing…
I think you are missing something in Jn 8, just as you missed it in Acts 26 concerning Saul of Tarsus and Jn 9:1-10:21 concerning the blind man. I’ll share it with you maybe tonight when I have the time.
If you are allergic to cats, then God must be punishing
you for some great sin. You need to come clean!(I’m smiling!!!)
I prefer to think he’s punishing the cats by denying them all the love and affection I used to lavish on them. Perhaps it’s judgment for accepting worship in ancient Egypt.
Looking forward to your comment.
Dogs go to heaven. I’m not so sure about cats. They are aloof and sneaky, which is not conducive to fellowship with God.
Tim, I’m going to have to renege on my promise to share what I wanted to share with you. The more I looked at it the more I realized there are still some things about Jn 8 that are not entirely clear to me. I think the question you’ve raised about John’s omission of any explicit reference to the promise of eternal life is a valid question, so I don’t fault you for asking it, but I still don’t think it’s as “problematic” or as much of an “anomaly” as you’re trying to make it. If John were writing for the purpose of teaching his readers HOW to evangelize, I think your point would have more force. However, he is actually EVANGELIZING his readers, not teaching them HOW to evangelize. He has already placed a huge amount of emphasis on the promise of eternal life in chapters 3-6. He will again come back to it in chapters 10, 11, and 12 before moving to the climactic eighth sign (Jesus’ death and resurrection) in chapters 13-19.
Anyway, I’d rather hold off commenting too much on Jn 8 until I’ve had more time to study this passage and how it fits into John’s overall purpose.
Yes, dogs will certainly go to heaven. But cats might have to spend some time in purgatory.
Not only will dogs go to heaven, they will also be among the “metochoi” who hear Christ say: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Fair enough. I look forward to hearing from you whenever you’re comfortable with it.
Your point about evangelism training as opposed to actual evangelism — that’s a fair point. However, I don’t agree that John is writing only to an unbelieving audience. From what I can see, he’s writing to an audience that includes unbelievers. But there are a large number of indicators that he also has a message for believers: the byplay with the disciples in John 4 and a number of other occasions, the upper room discourse, the closing chapter, and so on.
Oh, and of course dogs go to heaven. 😉
Well, if you were of the LS persuasion and lived in my part of the country where NO ONE trains their dog and the only form of obedience is the owner tugging on the leash and saying, “Now, now, [poochie], be good,” you wouldn’t think ANY dog is going to heaven!
“Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” It’s not the dog, it’s the owner.
Ah, but the owner says, “[Poochie], stop jumping all over that man!” Law and transgression!
But I agree–it’s really the owner. I just had to vent my PET peeve.
Nice, David….good to c ya back.
Naw. Owner doesn’t mean it, and Poochie knows that.
Haha. I’m afraid you’re correct.
Hi Jim. I’ve been here, just silently–until my pet peeve got riled up and I couldn’t contain myself!