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About lifecoach4God

I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca,, and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 23 years - Dana - and have one teenager still living at home; four adult children; and four grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over twenty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: personal spiritually, in marriage, in their families, with friends, vocationally, physical health, finances, discipleship, and mentoring .

Spiritual Lessons Learned From a Godly Man

*7 Spiritual Lessons Learned Over 60 Years By  Christian Author Jerry Bridges

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I have learned many lessons over my sixty-plus years of being a believer, but these are seven that stand out to me. Each one of the seven has made a significant change in the way I view the Christian life and how I live it. Some of the lessons may seem well evident, but when I became a Christian at age eighteen, despite having grown up in church, I was essentially biblically illiterate. Here are the seven lessons:

(1) Lesson One: The Bible is meant to be applied to specific life situations. This includes both God’s commands to be obeyed and His promises to be relied upon. Here, of course, is where Scripture memorization is so valuable. The Holy Spirit can bring to our minds specific Scriptures to apply to specific situations.

(2) Lesson Two: All who trust in Christ as Savior are united to Him in a living way just as the branches are united in the vine:

15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:1-5).

This means that we abide in Him–that is, depend on Him in faith–His very life will flow into and through us to enable us to be fruitful both in our own character and our ministry to others.

(3) Lesson Three: The pursuit of holiness and godly character is neither by self-effort nor simply letting Christ “live His life through you.” Rather, it does involve our most diligent efforts but with a recognition that we are dependent on the Holy Spirit to enable us and to bless our efforts. I call this “dependent responsibility.”

(4) Lesson Four: The sudden understanding of the doctrine of election was a watershed event for me that significantly affected my entire Christian life. For example, it was the realization of God’s sovereignty in election that led me to study further the sovereignty in election that led me to study further the sovereignty of God in all of life. It also produced a deep sense of gratitude and, I trust, humility, of realizing salvation was entirely of Him.

(5) Lesson Five: The representative union of Christ and the believer means that all that Christ did in both His perfect obedience and His death for our sins is credited to us. Or to say it another way, because Christ is our representative before the Father, it was just of God to charge our sins to Christ and to credit His righteousness to us. So we as believers stand before God perfectly cleansed from both guilt and defilement of sin, but also clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.

(5) Lesson Six: The gospel is not just for unbelievers coming to Christ. Rather, all of us who are believers need the gospel every day because we are still practicing sinners. The gospel, embraced every day, helps keep us from self-righteousness because it frees us to see our sin for what it really is. Also, gratitude for what God has done for us in Christ should motivate us to want to pursue godly character and to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to Him.

(7) Lesson Seven: We are dependent on the Holy Spirit to apply the life of Christ to our lives. Someone has said (and this is a paraphrase), God the Father purposes, Christ accomplishes what the Father has purposed, and the HolySpirit applies to our lives what Christ accomplished. To do this, the Spirit works in us directly and He enables us to work. All the spiritual strength that we need comes to us from Christ through the Holy Spirit.

*These Seven Spiritual Lessons are adapted from Chapter 15 in  Jerry Bridges’ book: God Took Me By The Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence. Colorado Springs: NAVPRESS, 2014.

 

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Book Excerpts, Jerry Bridges

 

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12 Principles for Disagreeing with Other Christians

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1. Welcome those who disagree with you (Rom. 14:1–2).

Concerning any area of disagreement on third-level matters [i.e., disputable issues that shouldn’t cause disunity in the church family], a church will have two groups: (1) those who are “weak in faith” (14:1) on that issue and (2) those “who are strong” (15:1). The weak in faith have a weak conscience on that matter, and the strong in faith, a strong conscience.

Don’t forget that “faith” here refers not to saving faith in Christ (14:22a makes that clear) but to the confidence a person has in their heart or conscience to do a particular activity, such as eat meat (14:2). The weak person’s conscience lacks sufficient confidence (i.e., faith) to do a particular act without self-judgment, even if that act is actually not a sin. To him it would be a sin.

What this means is that you are responsible to obey both Paul’s exhortations to the weak and his exhortations to the strong, since (1) there are usually people on either side of you on any given issue and (2) you yourself likely have a stronger conscience on some issues and a weaker conscience on others. This brings us to Paul’s second principle when Christians disagree on scruples.

2. Those who have freedom of conscience must not look down on those who don’t (Rom. 14:3–4).

The strong, who have freedom to do what others cannot do, are tempted to look down on and despise those who are more strict. They may say, “Those people don’t understand the freedom we have in Christ. They’re not mature like us! They’re legalistic. All they think about are rules.” Paul condemns this attitude of superiority.

3. Those whose conscience restricts them must not be judgmental toward those who have freedom (Rom. 14:3–4).

Those who have a weaker conscience on a particular issue are always tempted to pass judgment on those who are freer. They may say, “How can those people be Christians and do that? Don’t they know they’re hurting the testimony of Christ? Don’t they know that they are supposed to give up things like that for the sake of the gospel?”

Paul gives two reasons that it’s such a serious sin to break these two principles, that is, for the strong to look down on those with a weaker conscience and for the weak to judge those with a stronger conscience:

1“God has welcomed him” (14:3c). Do you have the right to reject someone whom God has welcomed? Are you holier than God? If God himself allows his people to hold different opinions on third-level matters, should you force everyone to agree with you?

2“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another?” (14:4a). You are not the master of other believers. When you look down on someone with a weaker conscience or judge someone with a stronger conscience, you’re acting as though that person is your servant and you are his master. But God is his master. In matters of opinion, you must let God do his work. You just need to welcome your brother or sister. God is a better master than you are.

4. Each believer must be fully convinced of their position in their own conscience (Rom. 14:5).

Should Christians celebrate Jewish holy days? This issue, which Paul is addressing here, illustrates the principle that on disputable matters, you should obey your conscience.

This does not mean that your conscience is always right. It’s wise to calibrate your conscience to better fit God’s wil. But it does mean that you cannot constantly sin against your conscience and be a healthy Christian. You must be fully convinced of your present position on food or drink or special days—or whatever the issue—and then live consistently by that decision until God may lead you by his Word and Spirit to adjust your conscience.

5. Assume that others are partaking or refraining for the glory of God (Rom. 14:6–9).

Notice how generous Paul is to both sides. He assumes that both sides are exercising their freedoms or restrictions for the glory of God. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be in a church where everyone gave each other the benefit of the doubt on these differences, instead of putting the worst possible spin on everything?

Paul says that both the weak and the strong can please the Lord even while holding different views on disputable matters. They have different positions but the same motivation: to honor God.

6. Do not judge each other in these matters because we will all someday stand before the judgment seat of God (Rom. 14:10–12).

If we thought more about our own situation before the judgment throne of God, we would be less likely to pass judgment on fellow Christians. On that day we’ll be busy enough answering for our own life; we don’t need to spend our short life meddling in the lives of others. In these matters where good Christians disagree, we just need to mind our own conscience and let God be the judge of others.

7. Your freedom to eat meat is correct, but don’t let your freedom destroy the faith of a weak brother (Rom. 14:13–15).

Free and strict Christians in a church both have responsibilities toward each other. Strict Christians have a responsibility not to impose their conscience on everyone else in the church. It is a serious sin to try to bind someone else’s conscience with rules that God does not clearly command.

But the second half of Romans 14 places the bulk of responsibility on Christians with a strong conscience. One obvious reason is that they are strong, so God calls on them to bear with the weaknesses of the weak (Rom. 15:1). Not only that, of the two groups, only the strong have a choice in third-level matters like meat, holy days, and wine. They can either partake or abstain, whereas the conscience of the strict allows them only one choice. It is a great privilege for the strong to have double the choices of the weak. They must use this gift wisely by considering how their actions affect the sensitive consciences of their brothers and sisters.

8. Disagreements about eating and drinking are not important in the kingdom of God; building each other up in righteousness, peace, and joy is the important thing (Rom. 14:16–21).

The New Testament clearly and repeatedly lays down the principle that God is completely indifferent to what we ingest. First and most important, the Lord Jesus himself memorably proclaimed all foods to be legitimate for eating in Mark 7:1–23 (esp. vv. 18–19). Since Peter didn’t seem to get the memo, the Lord Jesus had to give him a vision three times to show him that Christians must not make food an issue (Acts 10:9–16). Then in 1 Corinthians 8:8, Paul comes right out and says it: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.” And just in case we still didn’t get it, God gave us Romans 14:17, which shows that the kingdom of God has nothing to do with food and drink. Nothing. God doesn’t care at all about what we ingest.

This might seem mistaken. Doesn’t God care if we take poison? Not if the purpose is to cure. Every day Christians take poison into their bodies to cure themselves of cancer. But if we take in poison to kill ourselves, that’s another matter entirely. In Christianity, why you do things is more important than what you do.

9. If you have freedom, don’t flaunt it; if you are strict, don’t expect others to be strict like you (Rom. 14:22a).

This truth applies equally to the strong and the weak. To those with a strong conscience you have much freedom in Christ. But don’t flaunt it or show it off in a way that may cause others to sin. Be especially careful to nurture the faith of young people and new Christians.

Those of you with a weak conscience in a particular area also have a responsibility not to “police” others by pressuring them to adopt your strict standards. You should keep these matters between yourself and God.

10. A person who lives according to their conscience is blessed (Rom. 14:22b–23).

God gave us the gift of conscience in order to significantly increase our joy as we obey its warnings. One of the two great principles of conscience is to obey it. Just as God’s gift of touch and pain guards us from what would rob us of physical health, conscience continually guards us from the sin that robs our joy.

11. We must follow the example of Christ, who put others first (Rom. 15:1–6).

This principle doesn’t mean that the strong have to agree with the position of the weak. It doesn’t even mean that the strong can never again exercise their freedoms. On the other hand, neither does it mean that the strong only put up with or endure or tolerate the weak, like a person who tolerates someone who annoys him. For a Christian, to “bear with” the weaknesses of the weak means that you gladly help the weak by refraining from doing anything that would hurt their faith.

Romans 15:3 emphasizes the example of Christ. We cannot even begin to imagine the freedoms and privileges that belonged to the Son of God in heaven. To be God is to be completely free. Yet Christ “did not please himself” but gave up his rights and freedoms to become a servant so that we could be saved from wrath. Compared to what Christ suffered on the cross, to give up a freedom like eating meat is a trifle indeed.

12. We bring glory to God when we welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us (Rom. 15:7).

With this sentence, Paul bookends this long section that began with similar words in 14:1: “Welcome him. . . .” But here in 15:7 Paul adds a comparison—“as Christ has welcomed you”—and a purpose—“for the glory of God.” It matters how you treat those who disagree with you on disputable matters. When you welcome them as Christ has welcomed you, you glorify God.

Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota

J. D. Crowley (MA, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) has been doing missionary and linguistic work among the indigenous minorities of northeast Cambodia since 1994. He is the author of numerous books, including Commentary on Romans for Cambodia and Asia and the Tampuan/Khmer/English Dictionary.

This post is adapted from Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley.

 

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BOOK REVIEW FOR STICKY CHURCH BY LARRY OSBORNE

“Assimilating and Making Disciples in the Local Church”

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Reviewed By Dr. David P. Craig

Larry Osborne is a pastor’s pastor and a leader’s leader. He has successfully made and multiplied disciples in the same local church for over thirty years. Whenever he writes a book I read it; re-read it; and make sure my staff and leaders read it as well. Larry started with a small struggling church and has successfully developed multiplying disciples of Christ in San Diego and all over the world through their simple church model of assimilation and discipleship through their intentional and strategic implementation of small groups.

In Sticky Church Osborne writes about a simple strategic process for developing a small group ministry that is extremely effective in assimilating attenders and new comers in the church and helping them become connected and committed to making and multiplying fully devoted followers of Christ for the long-haul.

Part 1 is composed of four chapters whereby Osborne makes a compelling case for a simple model and strategy in developing a “sticky church.” A sticky church is a church where people “stick” or stay because they immediately become convinced and unified around the vision; and live out this vision in the context of a small group. In Osborne’s church in Vista, California (a suburb of San Diego) 80% of church attenders (over 7,000 adults) become committed to their small groups – what they call “growth groups.” The whole idea of “stickiness” is keeping people in the church (what he calls “closing the back door”) so that you have a high retention of attenders who stay and grow because they commit to a small group that’s committed to their growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Here are some insightful quotes from the first four chapters:

“But we’ve often become so focused on reaching people that we’ve forgotten the importance of keeping people.”

“What does Jesus’ parable about the four soils have to say about the way we do church? To my thinking it says a lot. And one of the most important things it says about churches is that stickiness matters.”

“They [the principles in this book and the sermon-based model used by North Coast Church) worked just as well when we were a small church of less than two hundred adults as they do today in a multisite megachurch with more than seven thousand in weekend attendance.”

“Almost all our growth has come by word of mouth.”

“We’ve simply tried to serve our people so well that they’ll want to bring their friends, without needing to be asked to do so.”

“Everything we do is aimed at helping the Christians we already have grow stronger in Christ. But everything is done in such a way that their non-Christian friends will understand all that we’re saying and doing.”

“Bottom line: We’ve tried to create a perfect storm for come-and-see evangelism while velcroing newcomers for long-term spiritual growth.”

“In fact, the most important number to know about North Coast Church is not the weekend attendance. It’s the percentage of adults who participate in one of our small groups. Since 1985 that number has equaled 80 percent of our average weekend attendance.”

“It’s as though they assumed (people that think that sermon-based small groups only work in a megachurch) that North Coast was always big church—or at least became one overnight…Not so…North Coast grew quite slowly in the early days. It took five years to go from 130-180. It took another five years to reach 750.”

“This is not an anti-marketing or anti-programs book. It’s a pro-stickiness book.”

“What matters is not the size of the church or the slickness of the programming . What matters is that those who come find a ministry and relationships worthy of spontaneous word-of-mouth recommendations. When that happens, a church is primed to hold on to the people it already has and the people they bring with them.”

“A sticky church needs a healthy leadership team composed of people who genuinely like one another, share the same vision, and pull in the same direction (talking about the first big change necessary to developing a sticky church – retaining new comers).”

“The second big change was in the way I taught and led our congregation. Focusing on the front door aimed everything at two kinds of people: the not-yet Christian or the super saint who was ready to help me charge the hill. There wasn’t much room for people who came to Christ but didn’t grow at a fast enough pace or carried lots of old baggage.”

“The third change involved launching a small group ministry focus primarily on building significant relationships rather than growing the church.”

“Instead of celebrating how many people came, the most important measurement would be how many came back.”

“Churches that close the back door effectively do so by serving their congregations so well that the people don’t want to leave. And happy sheep are incurable word-of-mouth marketers.”

“Whatever you do to reach people you have to continue to do to keep them (this is why they keep their ministries simple, consistent, and excellent – North Coast doesn’t do a lot of special events or programming).”

“High-powered front-door programs can have the unintended consequences of sending a message that some weekends and programs are for brining guests—and the rest aren’t.”

“There’s a second unintended obstacle that highly programmed front-door churches can put in the way of natural evangelism. If most of the people who come to Christ come as a result of a complex and high-powered event, it sends a subtle message that it takes lots of time, planning, and money to lead someone to Christ.”

“Instead of complex assimilation programs, a sticky church simply needs to provide plenty of ministry on-ramps to which members can easily connect the friends they’ve invited.”

In Part 2 Osborne writes five chapters on “How Small Groups Change Everything.” Here are some important points from this section:

“Most spiritual growth doesn’t come as a result of a training program or set curriculum. It comes as a result of life putting us in what I like to call a need-to-know or need-to-grow situation.”

“The focus of a sermon based small group is not so much on the curriculum as it is on the process.”

“The ultimate goal of a sermon-based small group is simply to velcro people to the two things they will need most when faced with a need-to-know or need-to-grow situation: the Bible and other Christians.”

“When the New Testament was written, the typical church was so small that it was, in essence, a small group.”

“The best tool I’ve ever seen for connecting people to one another and engaging them with the Bible for the long haul is a sermon-based small group. It offers a format that fits the way we spiritually grow, while providing a framework for a healthy and sticky church. Nothing compares.

“While many church leaders claim that small groups are an integral part of their ministry, I’ve learned that two simple measurements will always tell me their real place in a ministry’s pecking order: (1) the percentage of adults who attend a small group, and  (2) the participation level of senior staff and key lay leaders.”

“Getting there (the key to reaching critical mass – that all-important stage at which the full power and benefits of a small group ministry begin to impact the ethos, DNA, and spiritual health of nearly everyone and everything in the church) usually requires that somewhere between 40 to 60 percent of the average weekend adult attendance be involved in a small group. If fewer people participate, small groups will still have a profound effect, but it will be primarily on the individuals in them, not on the entire church.”

“Small groups undercut this Holy Man myth (The Holy Man myth is the idea that pastors/clergy somehow have more of a direct hot line to God) because they typically meet in widely dispersed settings. This makes it impossible for the pastor (or any other staff member) to carry out all the pastoral roles and functions. They simply can’t be everywhere at once…As a result, small group leaders inevitably step up and assume roles of spiritual leadership that they would have otherwise deferred to the pastoral staff.”

“That not only changes the way small group leaders view themselves; it changes the congregation’s outlook as well. Once people begin to realize that God’s anointing and spiritual power aren’t restricted to the guy who speaks on Sunday, they whine a lot less when he’s not available.”

“Another spiritually crippling falsehood that began to lose its grip on our congregation was what I call the Holy Place myth. It’s the idea that God’s presence is somehow greater in some places than in others.”

“With the demise of both the Holy Man and the Holy Place myths, our ministry was, for the first time, genuinely unleashed. People started bringing God to the workplace and into their neighborhoods rather than trying to bring everyone to the church building.”

“Let’s face it: In most churches there aren’t many opportunities for high-impact, life on life ministry. There are usually few up-front teaching roles, a handful of worship leader positions, and some youth and Sunday school spots to be filled. After that, most roles are pretty much part of the supporting cast, designed more to keep the machine running than to touch lives.”

“Small groups open up lots of new opportunities for frontline ministry. At North Coast every group has a leader and a host, most often made up of two couples. That means in every group, we have four people who teach, counsel, disciple, pray, visit hospitals, lead in worship, provide communion, and even baptize members of their little flock—none of which they would do without the platform for ministry we call growth groups.”

“As a former youth pastor, I learned long ago that no one steps up until there’s a vacuum that needs to be filled. Every year when my seniors were about to graduate, I would wonder if we’d survive without their leadership. But as soon as they were gone, the juniors and sophomores stepped up—often doing a better job than their departing upperclassmen.”

“Still another powerful advantage that small groups can bring is a marked increase in the practice of spiritual disciplines. That’s because a small group takes our good intentions and puts them on the our calendar.”

“Here’s the irony: if we canceled our small groups and filled our facility once a week for a prayer meeting with standing-room-only crowds, we’d probably get some great write-ups in the Christian press. But in reality we’d have almost 70% fewer people praying than we already have in our small groups.”

“Our young adult dropout rate is a fraction of what I’ve seen in the past. And I’m convinced it’s because we’ve focused on giving our children and youth the powerful gift of a growing mom and dad.”

“Sermon-based small groups also made it much easier for our teaching team to keep the entire church focused and headed in the same direction. Whether we’re casting vision, clarifying direction, or simply dealing with an important issue, it’s much easier to get people on the same page and keep them there.”

“One reason I want my messages to be more memorable (on why sermon based small groups make the preacher a better preacher and make the sermon go further in people’s lives) is that I want people to apply the important truths and doctrines of the faith. I know that if I can change the way people think, it will change the way they live.”

“It’s a relatively short step (for a marginal attender) from listening to a sermon to joining a small group that discusses the sermon he’s already heard. But it’s a much bigger step into a traditional small group Bible study.”

“There’s still another advantage that comes with a sermon based small group model. It’s that most people (including the marginally interested and new Christians) come to the meeting far more prepared than they would if they were using a typical workbook or study guide.”

Part 3 recounts ten chapters on the Why’s and How’s of Sermon-Based Small Groups and why this model works better than some of the more popular models out there for small groups. Here are some practical realities of sermon based small groups:

“A group needs to be small enough that everyone has a chance to contribute, but large enough that no one feels forced to speak up or share more than they want to. That means the ideal size for a group of introverts will tend to be larger than the ideal size for a group of thin-it-and-immediately-say-it extroverts. One needs more people to break the silence. The other needs less people so that there will be some silence.”

“The ideal size for a group of married couples is usually twelve to fourteen people. For singles, eight to twelve can be ideal.”

“We’ve found that whenever a couples group reaches sixteen people (or a singles group reaches fourteen), attendance becomes predictably inconsistent. It’s strange, but we can have three groups of twelve people, and all thirty-six will be present at almost every meeting. But two groups of sixteen people will hardly ever have all thirty-two show up. Perhaps it has to do with those in the smaller group feeling more needed and feeling a greater sense of responsibility.”

“We’ve found that the sermon-based small groups that have the greater life-on-life impact and stay together the longest are always those in which the friendships are deepest. That’s why we tell people to choose a group primarily according to who else is in it rather than where or when it meets.”

“Although we allow people to pick any group they want as long as there’s room in the group, we’ve found that those who make their choice based on a convenient location or time have a much lower stick rate than those who look for a group with which they already share an interest or station in life.”

“In almost every case, the first thing you’d notice at one of our small group meetings is that it starts with some light refreshments as people arrive—especially something to drink.”

“Once the meeting starts, most groups spend fifteen to thirty minutes sharing prayer requests and updating one another on what has been going on in their lives…As a group jells, this part of the meeting tends to expand and move to a much deeper level. In new groups, it can be perfunctory and shallow at first. But that’s fine by us. We don’t try to force depth. We simply provide an opportunity for great depth and vulnerability t show up when both the group and the Holy Spirit are ready.”

“The next part of the meeting is dedicated to the study and discussion of the previous weekend’s sermon…To improve the quality of the discussion, we work hard to make sure that everyone comes with the answers to the study questions already filled out. One of the most effective ways we do this is by having our leaders periodically ask people to read what they’ve written down, especially if it appears that someone is deviating from their original answer.”

“The homework (discussion/study guide) always consists of three types of questions: Getting to Know Me (These questions offer a nonthreatening look into our past or current life situations. They’re designed to help us get to know each other at a safe but accelerated pace), Into the Bible (These questions take the group to biblical passages that are either complementary or parallel to the main text of the sermon but were not covered in the message), and Application (These are designed to take home the main point or points of the sermon and drive them home. They typically deal with attitudes or life-change issues).”

“We ask every group to take at least one service project a year (the ideal is two) and to have at least one social gathering per quarter).”

“As a rule of thumb, most people will participate in only two time slots per week. No matter what the third meeting is for or when it takes place, it’s hard to get anyone to show up.”

Osborne goes on to discuss how to overcome the time crunch of developing and sustaining leaders; determining your primary purpose; how groups can grow deeper; why dividing groups isn’t the best strategy; how to find and develop leaders; how to train leaders; and these five key questions to ask before starting small groups:

  1. “Who are you trying to reach?” By that I mean, “Specifically who do you imagine being in your small groups? Who is likely to opt out? Who are you willing to leave out?”
  2. “What you plan to do in your meetings?” The options are endless. But once I know what happens in a small group, I can predict with uncanny accuracy who will come and who won’t.
  3. “How well does who you want to reach match up with what you plan to do?”
  4. “How do you think people are best trained to live out the Christian life and best prepared for leadership?”
  5. The final question to ask before launching a new or revamped small group ministry is, “Who already does what we want to do well—and does it in a church we would go to if we lived in the area?”

There is a large appendix section in the back of the book containing helps for the following topics: (1) Writing Great Questions; (2) Sample Sermon Note Sheet and Study Questions; (3) Sample Growth Group Covenant; (4) End-of-the-quarter Evaluation Form; (5) Leader Training Topics; (6) Leader Responsibilities; (7) Host Responsibilities; (8) A List of NT “One Anothers.” The Last section contains a Study Guide of Follow Up Questions for each chapter in the book.

Osborne’s model is simple; practical, proven, and effective. I don’t know of a better model for helping a local church reach out; equip; serve; raise up leaders; and unleash people for multiplying disciples of Jesus Christ. I have used this model in three churches; and now about to embark on launching this model in another church. I am grateful for it’s simplicity and yet the profound impact it has made practically in so many lives that I have been in community with. It has made a profound impact on my own belief that discipleship is done best in community and is a process not an event.

 

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COMPARING COVENANT THEOLOGY & DISPENSATIONAL THEOLOGY

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An Overview of Covenant Theology: 

  • Covenant theology centers on one overall covenant known as the covenant of grace. Some have called it the covenant of redemption. This is defined by many as an eternal covenant  among the members of the Godhead including the following elements: (1) the Father chose a people to be His own; (2) The Son was designated, with his agreement, to the pay the penalty of their sin; and (3) the Holy Spirit was designated, with His agreement, to apply the work of the Son to this chosen people.
  • This covenant of grace is being worked out in history on earth through subordinate covenants, beginning with the covenant of works and culminating in the new covenant, which fulfills and completes God’s work of grace to man on earth. These covenants include the Adamic covenant, Noahic covenant, Abrahamic covenant, Mosaic covenant, Davidic covenant, and new covenant.
  • Covenant theology does not see each covenant as separate and distinct. Instead, each covenant builds on the previous ones, including aspects of the previous ones, including aspects of the previous covenants and culminating in the new covenant.

An Overview of Dispensational Theology:

  • Dispensational theology looks on the world and history of mankind as a household over which God is superintending the outworking of His will. This outworking of His purpose and will can be seen be noting the various periods or stages of different economies whereby God deals with His work and mankind in particular. These various stages or economies are called dispensations. Their number may include seven: innocence, conscience, human government, promise, law, grace, and kingdom.

God’s People in Covenant Theology:

  • God has one people, represented by the saints in the OT and the saints of the NT era.

God’s People in Dispensational Theology:

  • God has two peoples—Israel and the church. Israel is an earthly people, and the church is a heavenly people.

God’s Plan for His People in Covenant Theology:

  • God has one people—the church—for whom He has one plan, in all ages since Adam: to call out this people into one body, in both the Old and New Testament ages.

God’s Plan for His People Dispensational Theology:

  • God has two separate peoples—Israel and the church—and also has two separate plans for these two distinct peoples. He plans an earthly kingdom for Israel. This kingdom has been postponed until Christ’s coming in power since Israel rejected it at  Christ’s first coming. During the church age God is calling out a heavenly people. Dispensationalists disagree over whether the two peoples will remain distinct in the eternal state.

God’s Plan of Salvation in Covenant Theology:

  • God has one plan of salvation for all his people since the time of Adam. The plan is one of grace, being an outworking of the eternal covenant of grace, and comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s Plan of Salvation in Dispensational Theology:

  • God has only one plan of salvation, though this has often been misunderstood because of inexactness in some dispensational writings. Some have wrongly taught or understood that OT believers were saved by works and sacrifices. However, most have believed that salvation has always been by grace through faith, but that the content of faith may vary until the full revelation of God in Christ.

Eternal Destiny for God’s People in Covenant Theology:

  • God has but one place for His people, since He has but one people, one plan for His people, and one plan of salvation. His people will be in His presence for eternity.

Eternal Destiny for God’s People in Dispensational Theology:

  • There is disagreement among dispensationalists regarding the future states of Israel and the church. Many believe that the church will sit with Christ on His throne in the New Jerusalem during the Millennium as He rules over the nations, while Israel will be the head of the nations of the earth.

The Birth of the Church in Covenant Theology:

  • The church existed prior to the NT era, including all the redeemed since Adam. Pentecost was not the beginning of the church but rather the empowering of the NT manifestation of God’s people.

The Birth of the Church in Dispensational Theology:

  • The church was born on the Day of Pentecost and did not exist in history until that time. The church, the body of Christ, is not found in the Old Testament, and saints are not part of the body of Christ.

The Purpose of Christ’s First Coming in Covenant Theology:

  • Christ came to die for our sins and to establish the New Israel, the NT manifestation of the church. This continuation of God’s plan placed the church under a new manifestation of the same covenant of grace. The kingdom that Jesus offered was the present, spiritual, and invisible kingdom.
  • Some covenantalists (especially postmillennialists) also see a physical aspect to the kingdom.

The Purpose of Christ’s First Coming in Dispensational Theology:

  • Christ came to establish the messianic kingdom. Some dispensationalists believe that this was to be an earthly kingdom in fulfillment of the OT promises to Israel. If the Jews had accepted Jesus’ offer, this earthly kingdom would have been established immediately. Other dispensationalists believe that Christ did establish the kingdom in some form, in which the church participates, but the earthly kingdom awaits the second coming of Christ to the earth. Christ always intended the cross before the crown.

The Fulfillment of the New Covenant in Covenant Theology:

  • The promises of the new covenant mentioned in Jeremiah 31:31ff (verses 31-34, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”) are fulfilled in the NT.

The Fulfillment of the New Covenant in Dispensational Theology:

  • Dispensationalists differ over whether only Israel is to participate in the new covenant, at a later time, or whether both the church and Israel participate jointly. Some dispensationalists believe there is one new covenant with two applications: one for Israel and one for the church. Others believe that there are two new covenants: one for Israel and another for the church

How The Millennium is Viewed in Covenant Theology:

  • Historically, covenant theology has been either amillennial, believing the kingdom to be present and spiritual, or postmillennial, believing the kingdom is being established on earth with Christ’s coming as the culmination. In recent years some covenant theologians have been premillennial, believing that there will be a future manifestation of God’s kingdom on earth (Historic Premillennialism). However, God’s dealings with Israel will be in connection with the church. Postmillennialists believe that the church is bringing the kingdom now, with Israel ultimately to be made a part of the church.

How The Millennium is Viewed in Dispensational Theology:

  • All dispensationalists are premillennialists, though not necessarily pretribulationalists. Premillennialists of this type believe that God will again turn to the nation of Israel, apart from His work with the church, and that there will be a 1,000-year period of Christ’s reign on David’s throne in accordance with and in fulfillment of the prophecies of the OT.

How The Second Coming is Viewed in Covenant Theology:

  • Christ’s coming will be to bring final judgment and the eternal state. Those who are premillennial assert that a millennial period will precede the judgment and eternal state. Postmillennialists believe that the kingdom is being established by the work of God’s people on the earth until the time when Christ will bring it to completion at His coming.

How The Second Coming is Viewed in Dispensational Theology:

  • Most dispensationalists believe the Rapture will occur first, then a tribulation period followed by the Second Coming of Christ with the saints and a 1,000-year reign of Christ, after which there will be a judgment and the eternal state.

*This chart represents traditional views and is based on the study of Richard P. Belcher, A Comparison of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology (Columbia, SC: Richbarry Press, 1986).

 

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COVENANT, DISPENSATIONAL, & REVELATORY THEOLOGICAL SYSTEMS COMPARED

A CHART COMPARING DISPENSATIONAL & COVENANTAL SYSTEMS

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Pattern of History:

Covenant Theology: Covenant of Works with Adam; Covenant of Grace with Christ on behalf of the elect (some distinguish between the covenant of Redemption with Christ and the covenant of grace with the elect).

Classical Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations (usually seven); e.g., (1) Innocence (pre-fall), (2) Conscience (Adam), (3) Human Government (Noah), (4) Promise (Abraham), (5) Law (Moses), (6) Grace (Christ’s First Coming), (7) Kingdom (Christ’s Second Coming).

Progressive Dispensationalism: Divided into dispensations, of which four are prominent: (1) Patriarchal (Promise); (2) Mosaic (Law); (3) Ecclesial (Church); (4) Zionic (Millennium, the New Heavens and New Earth).

Revelatory View: Revelation and election initiatives succeeded by human failure to respond appropriately. Periods of transition then lead to further initiatives.

God’s Purpose in History:

Covenant Theology: There is a unified redemptive purpose.

Classical Dispensationalism: There are two distinct purposes, one earthly (Israel), one heavenly (church).

Progressive Dispensationalism: To manifest His glory in a progressive redemption that covers every sphere of creation and every structure of human relationship.

Revelatory View: The objective of self-revelation is pursued culminating in the revelation of a plan of salvation, whereby the goal of relationship may be achieved. It is a unified purpose, but not soteric throughout.

View of Biblical Covenants:

Covenant Theology: They are different administrations of the Covenant of Grace. Temporal promises are conditional and applicable to the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: They mark of periods of time during which God’s specific demands of people differ. Temporal promises are unconditional and are applicable to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: The biblical covenants of promise (Abrahamic, Davidic, and New) are made originally to His people, Israel. Believing gentiles are included through Christ, who is the means of blessing for all who believe. All covenants have an “already-not-yet” structure.

Revelatory View: There are revelatory initiatives facilitated through various types of election. Temporal promises are conditional but remain applicable to ethnic Israel. The covenant is characteristically redemptive; ultimately soteric; but essentially revelatory.

Relationship of the OT Law to the NT:

Covenant Theology: Acceptance of OT teaching required unless specifically abrogated  by the NT.

Classical Dispensationalism: OT prescriptions are not binding unless they are reaffirmed in the NT.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Individual aspects of the Law are assessed canonically on a case-by-case basis. Christ completes and fulfills the law.

Revelatory View: OT legal passages function within the covenant serving a revelatory purpose that continues to be relevant. The law of Christ has been superimposed on the law of Moses.

Relationship Between Israel and the Church:

Covenant Theology: The church is spiritual Israel, in continuity with true Israel of the OT.

Classical Dispensationalism: The church is the spiritual people of God, distinct from Israel, the physical people of God.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Church = the unified community that receives God’s spiritual blessings in Christ. Israel = the national and political community in the midst of nations that ultimately will be blessed fully by God. Ultimately united in redemption.

Revelatory View: The Church is the people of God defined soteriologically. Israel, previously the revelatory people of God, now may cross over and become a subset of the soteriological people of God (now that their revelatory function is complete) if they respond by faith to the plan of salvation.

Old Testament Prophecy:

Covenant Theology: Refers to God’s people, the church.

Classical Dispensationalism: Refers to ethnic Israel.

Progressive Dispensationalism: Fulness of blessing to be given to believing Israel (and those in the nations who believe) in the final dispensation.

Revelatory View: Refers to ethnic Israel but conditional upon their faithful response.

Church Age:

Covenant Theology: God’s redemptive purpose continued to unfold.

Classical Dispensationalism: There is a parenthesis between past and future manifestations of the kingdom.

Progressive Dispensationalism: From Pentecost to the rapture, a phase in the progressive outworking of God’s wholistic redemption. It is not a parenthesis in the kingdom program.

Revelatory View: The period begun when the people of God are defined soteriologically as a result of God’s plan of salvation being reveled.

*Chart adapted from John H. Walton. Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. John H. Walton has proposed the “Revelatory View.”

 

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Is Mankind Two or Three?

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The Dichotomist Position: Man as a Twofold Being = Body and Soul/Spirit

(1a. For) God breathed into man but one principle–a living soul (Genesis 2:7, “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”).

(1b. Against) The Hebrew text is plural, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of (lives); and man became a living being.”

(2a. For) The immaterial part of man (the soul) is viewed as an individual and conscious life, capable of possessing and animating a physical organism (body).

(2b. Against) Paul states that man has both a spirit and a soul, which are housed in a physical body (1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”).

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”(3a. For) The terms “soul” and “spirit” seem to be used interchangeably in some references (Genesis 41:8, “So in the morning his spirit was troubled, and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but there was none who could interpret them to Pharaoh.” & Psalm 42:6, “and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” & Matthew 27:50, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit” & John 12:27, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” & John 13:21, “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” & Hebrews 12:23, “and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” & Revelation 6:9, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.”

(3b. Against) Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” If the soul and the spirit were the same, they could not be divided.

(4a. For) “Spirit” (as well as “soul”) is ascribed to brute creation: Ecclesiastes 3:21, “Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” & Revelation 16:3, “The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a corpse, and every living thing died that was in the sea.”

(4b. Against) The term “spirit” or “soul” may be used for animal “life” or “animation” but never in the unique sense in which a human spirit or soul is used. Human spirits continue beyond physical existence, unlike the animals, and human spirits are in relationship with the divine spirit of God (Matthew 17:3, “And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.” & Acts 7:59, “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” & Galatians 6:8, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” & 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” ).

(5a. For) Body and soul are spoken of as constituting the whole person (Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” & 1 Corinthians 5:3, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” & 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.”).

(5b. Against) The spirit, soul, and body are spoken of as constituting the whole person (Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” & 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” & 1 Corinthians 3:4, “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”).

(6a. For) Consciousness testifies that there are two elements in man’s being. We can distinguish a material part and an immaterial part, but the consciousness of no one can distinguish between the soul and the spirit.

(6b. Against) It is the spirit of man that deals with the spiritual realm. The soul is the dimension of man that deals with the mental realm, man’s intellect, the sensibilities, and the will–the part that reasons and thinks. The body is the part of man that contacts or deals with the physical realm. hebrews 4:12 does literally speak of the separation of the soul from the spirit (see also 1 Thess. 5:23 above; John 3:7-8, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” & Romans 2:28-29, “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” & 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 14:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.”).

The Trichotomist Position: Man as a Threefold Being: Body, Soul, and Spirit

(1a. For) Genesis 2:7 does not absolutely declare that God made a twofold being. The Hebrew text is plural, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [lives], and man became a living being.”

(1b. Against) It is not said that man became spirit and soul. And further, “living being” is the same phrase used of animals and translated “living creature” (Genesis 1:21-24, “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so.”).

(2a. For) Paul seems to think of the body, soul, and spirit as three distinct parts of man’s nature (1 Thess 5:23 – see above). The same seems to be indicated in Hebrews 4:12, where the Word is said to pierce “even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.”

(2b. Against) Paul is emphasizing the whole person, not attempting to differentiate his parts. Hebrews 4:12 does not speak of the separation of the soul from the spirit, but of the separation itself extending to that point. The Word pierces to the dividing of the soul itself. The soul and spirit are laid open.

(3a. For) A threefold organization of man’s nature may be implied in the classification of man as natural,” “carnal,” and “spiritual,” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 and 3:1-4, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?”

(3b. Against) Body and soul are spoke of as constituting the whole person: 1 Corinthians 5:3, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.”& 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” & Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

(4a. For) In Luke 8:55, we read about the girl whom Jesus raised from the dead that “her spirit [pnuema] returned.” And so when Christ died, it is said that “he gave up his life,” “he dismissed his spirit,” (Matt. 27:50). “The body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:27). Pneuma refers to a life principle apart from the soul.

(4b. Against) Pneuma (spirit)and psyche (soul) are used interchangeably throughout the New Testament. Both represent one life principle.

Above adapted from H. Wayne House. Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1992.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2016 in Book Excerpts

 

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Will Everyone Go To Heaven?

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Varieties of Universalism

(1) Universal Reconciliation (The View of some Barthians – followers of Karl Barth): Maintains that Christ’s death accomplished its purpose of reconciling all mankind to God. Whatever separation exists between man and the benefits of God’s grace is subjective in nature, existing only in man’s mind. Reconciliation is an accomplished fact.

(2) Universal Pardon (The View of C.H. Dodd): Maintains that God, being loving, will not hold unswervingly to the conditions he has laid down. Though threatening eternal punishment he will in the end relent and forgive everyone. God will treat all persons as if they had believed.

(3) Universal Restoration (The View of Origen): At some point in the future all things will be restored to their original and intended state. Full salvation may be preceded by cycles of reincarnation or by some purgatorial period at the beginning of the life hereafter.

(4) The Doctrine of a Second Chance: The work of Christ is sufficient to secure the salvation of the elect, but salvation is effectually secured by the means of faith (Romans 10:10-13, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”). All people, even those who have heard and rejected, will be confronted with the claims of Christ in the life to come. Everyone given such an opportunity will of course accept it.

(5) Universal Temporal Blessings: The natural benefits of the world are also enjoyed by everyone. These benefits include sunshine, rain, good health, etc., and are a result of God’s common grace. These things are given from God because of his character.

Arguments For and Against Universalism

(1a. For) It is ridiculous to think that a living, all-powerful, and sovereign God could create a system whereby a portion of mankind (the epitome of his creation) would be condemned to everlasting punishment.

(1b. Against) God will not do anything that contradicts any of his attributes. hence in order to harmonize his perfect love and perfect justice, he devised the biblically explained system of redemption. We must accept the biblical record, not our own finite reasoning.

(2a. For) To condemn the unsaved to everlasting punishment as a result of a relatively short life span on earth is unjust.

(2b. Against) God is the final standard of justice, not man.

(3a. For) If an all-powerful sovereign God desires all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” and 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”), then surely all are saved.

(3b. Against) The Timothy and Peter passages in their context refer to all kinds of people and to “all” the elect in their contexts. Although God desires salvation for all mankind (specifically the elect) a person must respond to God’s offer of salvation and many do not (John 5:40, “yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” & Matthew 7:14, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

(4a. For) Christ’s death has acquitted all mankind of their condemnation before God, just as Adam brought the entire human race into sin (Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” & 1 Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

(4b. Against) The context of both of these passages clearly shows that the benefits of Christ’s death are for those “in Christ,” just as the penalties of Adam’s sin are for those “in Adam.”

(5a. For) The theme of the New Testament is the of God’s sovereign love. If his love is sovereign, it must be completely victorious. To say that God’s love is not adequate to secure the salvation of all mankind in the end presumes a finite God.

(5b. Against) Agreed, God has infinite love, but he also has justice and holiness. He has already devised a plan consistent with all his infinite attributes. It is up to man to accept God’s plan, instead of devising his own plan and calling God unjust if he does not accept it.

(6a. For) Christ paid the penalty of sin on behalf of all mankind (Hebrews 2:9, “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”), and legally, if such as adequate substitution is made and accepted, it is unjust for the creditor to require the original payment also.

(6b. Against) The substitutionary death of Christ was sufficient for the salvation of all (efficient only for the elect); however, each person must believe in order for it to be effectual on his behalf (2 Corinthians 5:19-20, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”).

(7a. For) God’s all-encompassing attribute is love. His judgment is only a temporary measure to reform unrepentant persons, and hence is itself motivated by love. Ultimately all people will be reformed, whether in this life or in the after-life, and hence ultimately all will be saved.

(7b. Against) Scripture never refers to the abode of unbelievers after death as a place of reformation. It is always referred to as a place of destruction and punishment (Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” & John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”). The only reference to any encounter of Christ with unbelievers after their death is 1 Peter 3:19, and this passage is applicable only to unbelievers in Noah’s day.

(8a. For) Ultimately all mankind will believe, whether in this life or the hereafter (Philippians 2:10-11, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” & 1 Peter 3:19-20, “in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.”).

(8b. Against) Contextually both of these passages do not prove the point from the context. The words of Jesus indicate clearly that some go to eternal life and others go to eternal punishment. Matthew 7:21-23,“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ &  John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” & Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” In this passage from Matthew the word for eternal is aionos, meaning “relating to the final order of things which will not pass away.”

(9a. For) Many will not believe in this life, but the after-life offers a second chance.

(9b. Against) The constant scriptural references to “saving faith” clearly indicate that some will NOT believe (John 1:11-12, “[Jesus] He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”;  & John 20:31, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

(10a. For) Warnings of lostness are merely hypothetical and constitute one of the ways in which God secures the universal salvation of all mankind.

(10b. Against) Christ and the apostles were constantly warning people of God’s wrath and judgment on sin and urgently calling them to repentance. Hence, if universalism is true, Christ and the apostles were either ignorant or grossly deceptive. Other Scriptures points to the punishment of the non-elect (Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction.” & 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” & Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Some of the material above adapted from H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.

 

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