Pastor Bob Crowder

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What did the Apostle Paul believe concerning the Gospel of Grace as the one and only means of Salvation?

It is very important to understand the history of Paul. In his own words, he describes himself as: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (Acts 22:3-4).

Paul was not just a follower of Judaism; he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone that was not a devout adherent. This gives Paul great insight into the religion as well as describing his education. He was an enforcer of the Law. And yet now, he fully embraces salvation by grace as the only means of salvation.

Paul was God’s chosen vessel to proclaim grace to humanity and especially to the Gentiles. By his own words, it was by God’s grace that he was chosen for salvation and to be God’s messenger (Galatians 2:9).

Paul’s salvation (Acts 9) is well established by his first missionary journey in which he proclaimed the Gospel and started churches. His message of salvation is only by faith, by the Grace of God becomes the main point in all his writings.

The Apostle Paul, from the outset of the epistle to Galatia, is dealing with the heresy of adding requirements to the Gospel of Grace by faith. There is a great difference in believing that the grace of God is all that is required for salvation and those that would add works to salvation (circumcision in this case).

The Greek word for grace is charis. It is only found 13 times in the Gospels, but over 144 times in Paul’s writing. Paul’s epistles always use grace doctrinally, in connection with the dispensation of Grace.

The Apostle Paul goes so far as to proclaim; “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

Paul never said it was wrong for Jews to be circumcised. He never said that it was wrong to keep the Law or to observe the Jewish festivals. He said that these have nothing to do with salvation. While customs and practices may differ, salvation never differs. There is only one way to be saved and that is by the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

“If…Then” Statements found in First John

One of the tools in Bible study is to look for “if…then” statements. These statements are key to understanding some passages. This article looks at the epistle of First John to better understand how “If…then” statements can be used as a tool during your Bible Study.

Note: Where you see the word [then] in brackets, I have added it to the scripture to complete the “if…then” statement. Where you see a word in blue, without brackets, the scripture already includes an “if, them or but” statement.

1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, [then] we lie and do not practice the truth;

1Jn 1:7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, [then] we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.

1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, [then] we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, [then] He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, [then] we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, [then] we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

1Jn 2:3 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.

1Jn 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, [then] the love of the Father is not in him.

1Jn 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

1Jn 2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, [then] ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

1Jn 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, [then] ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

1Jn 3:17 But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, [then] how dwelleth the love of God in him?

1Jn 3:21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.

1Jn 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, [then] we ought also to love one another.

1Jn 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, [then] God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

1Jn 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, [then] he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

1Jn 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, [then] the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.

1Jn 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, [then] he heareth us:

1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hear us, [then] whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

1Jn 5:16 If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, [then] he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.

Decline of Christianity in the US.

I was reading with interest the findings of a Pew Research Center survey the other day. In an article: “The U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at a Rapid Pace.” “An update on America’s changing religious landscape.”

The article comments: ” In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.”

It goes on to say: ” Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.”

As I read these findings, I did not curl up in the corner with my blanket, sucking my finger and crying; “The sky is falling.” Instead, the words of Jesus as He was ascending to His Father echoed through my thoughts:

Matthew 28:18 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

We were made for a time like this!

Remember, when Jesus proclaimed these words to Peter, James and John, the world was under the iron rule of the Romans. The percentage of Christians in the world was miniscule. However, the World was changed with this simple Gospel…the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.

The last commandment Christ uttered to the disciples rings true today. Let us not look at the numbers as insurmountable. The Truth is still the Truth! And we Christians hold that Truth. Jesus is the way the Truth and the Life. No man comes to the Father, but by Him.”

Fear is the weapon of the enemy, Satan. Truth overcomes fear, every time.

Excerpts From Ephesus – Part 4

Sealed With the Holy Spirit

Ephesians 1:13-14

Ephesians 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Introduction

So far, we have been reviewing the “spiritual blessings in heavenly places” which are “according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7). The spiritual blessings have been from eternity and history past. Today we will look at those things that the church at Ephesus currently had and experienced. Therefore, we as Christians in the 21st century can also enjoy.

The Gospel First

Ephesians 1:13a In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

The Apostle Paul reminds the readers that these blessings are only available to those that heard the Word of God, trusted in those scriptures and believed.

Notice with me how personal salvation is: “ye also trusted, ye heard the word of truth, your salvation, and ye believed.” They personally heard and they personally trusted. It was their personal belief and it is their personal salvation. No one else is responsible for your salvation but you.

Note: Trust stands in contrast to those that simply embrace salvation. My favorite question to really find out if a person is sure of their salvation is; “If you were to die today, are you 100% sure that you will spend eternity in heaven?” The answer to this question is very revealing. You can find out if the person trusts the Gospel or is simply in agreement with the Gospel. The Gospel may seem like a good idea, and it is, but to trust in the Word of God for your salvation is not the same than those that simply know about the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. (NLT)

The Gospel of Christ is the power of God at work unto salvation. The power of salvation is the Gospel. Gospel is translated as “God news” or “Good news.”

Also, please note God’s method of getting the Gospel out. Salvation comes through hearing, then trusting and finally believing the Gospel. The Gospel message is simply defined as the “death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.” The truth of the Gospel message is placing your trust in God’s Word and trust brings belief and belief brings salvation.

The Gospel message is preached, and the Holy Spirit works in the hearer. The Apostle Paul wrote the book to the Romans and he clearly defined the role of Christians today in the process of Salvation.

Romans 10:13-15 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

Therefore, an important part of the plan of Salvation, after God and Jesus did their part, is that those that believe are to preach. Preach means to proclaim the Word of God. That is everybody’s task. We are to …be witnesses unto me [Jesus the Christ] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

Our Jerusalem is the town in which you live. Judaea is the state of Texas. Samaria is North America and the uttermost part of the earth is the world. We all have been called to spread the Word of God. There is no way around it.

The Holy Spirit has sealed us

Ephesians 1:13b In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, “…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”

Not long ago, I had to have a document notarized, to prove that I was the person in the document and that the signature was mine. I took the document to a Notary Public and in front of the notary; I showed some Id and signed my name. Then the notary signed her name and put a seal on the document. The seal was then imprinted to show that the contract was completed. The seal also implies that I was who I said I was and that I had the right to sign the document.

The Roman seal on the grave of Jesus carried the meaning of security and ownership. No one would attempt to enter the grave or else they would find themselves being pursued by the government of Rome until they were caught, arrested and judged. That grave became the property of the Roman government until that seal was removed.

In much the same manner, that is what the Holy Spirit does. He put His seal on us. God has transferred the title of our life unto Him. So, when God puts His seal on the believer, they are the property of God with all the security and ownership of the Lord himself.
And most importantly, the transaction is finished! The seal also shows that the believer is genuine.

that holy Spirit of promise” – Jesus promised that the Comforter would come:
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
(See also John 16:7-11; 13; 15:26; 14:16-17)

The Holy Spirit gives the earnest of our inheritance

Ephesians 1:14a Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

Which is the earnest of our inheritance”. In the time of Paul, earnest was the down payment that guaranteed the purchase of property to seal the deal. The down payment was the guarantee that the buyer was serious. In this way, the Holy Spirit is God’s earnest to the believer of the salvation that is offered. God is serious about salvation and gives the earnest, Holy Spirit, to the believer.

Earnest is also translated as “engagement ring.”

Ephesians 1:14b Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

“…until the redemption of the purchased possession”. Redemption is an interesting word. When we become believers, we are redeemed. I love that old hymn, “Redeemed”. That is what I am. But redemption has three parts:

  1. I have been redeemed from my sins by my faith in Jesus the Messiah
  2. We are being redeemed as the Holy Spirit does His work in and through the believer.
  3. We shall be redeemed when Christ returns, and we become like him.

Ephesians 1:14c Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.

“…unto the praise of his glory.” – All of this, the believer’s sealing, the Holy Spirit as the earnest, for our inheritance is to the praise of God’s Glory!

Conclusion

The work of the Holy Spirit in God’s plan of salvation is amazing.

  1. Each of us must grasp the importance of the proof of our faith is “being sealed by God with the Holy Spirit and
  2. Each of us must grasp that just as God gave Jesus to the world so the world through him might be saved, God sent the Holy Spirit as the earnest of our salvation.
  3. The Christians future rests in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Excerpts from Ephesus – Part 3

Making Known the Mystery of His Will

Ephesians 1:8-12

Ephesians 1:8-12 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

Introduction

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus a most glorious letter. The letter is filled with hope and promise as he carefully lays out the importance of God in the lives of the brethren. In the first chapter he lets us in on a profound truth for Christians;

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Paul introduces them to how “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

In verses 4-6 we were introduced to the blessings of the Father: He Chose us (v. 4), He Adopted us (v. 5) and He Accepted us (v. 6). Beginning in the seventh verse, we see the blessings from God the Son. In verse 7 we found that Jesus redeemed us.

In this passage today, we will continue to see the Blessings in Heavenly Places from God the Son as Jesus reveals God’s will to us.

Ephesians 1:8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

In the previous verse we found that “we have redemption through his blood and the forgiveness of sins”. And all this is according to the “riches of his grace.” Now add “he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.” Spiritual blessings heaped upon spiritual blessings from God’s grace to those who trust in Christ.

Notice the word abounded, it means “in excess; more than enough to spare.” God does not give wisdom and prudence in moderation to His children. God will give in abundance to those that love God and keep His commandments.

Wisdom means full of intelligence and carries the idea of acting wisely. It can also mean insight. So another of the spiritual blessings is to have insight into God and then to act wisely concerning His will in your life.

Prudence means to have understanding; to think clearly, a capacity for understanding.

So God liberally gives, through the riches of His grace, wisdom and understanding to believers in His only Begotten Son, Jesus the Anointed One!

Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:

As a young boy I didn’t like to read very much. I would just as soon be playing baseball with all my friends. This condition existed until my first deployment on a ship in the Coast Guard. Life aboard a ship is one of work and then utter boredom. After the work was done, there wasn’t much of anything to do. I noticed that many of my shipmates were filling the down time with reading. So I found a book in the “loaner library” and I found that I liked to read and that I really enjoyed mysteries. I liked the “who done its.”

Paul uses the word “mystery” in this verse, but it carries a different definition than a “who done it.” Mystery used in Scripture is defined a “sacred secret, which was once hidden but is now revealed.” In this case it is a sacred secret revealed only to God’s people.

There are two elements which always enter into a New Testament mystery: (1) It cannot be discovered by human agencies, for it is always a revelation from God; and (2) it is revealed at the proper time and not concealed, and enough is revealed to establish the fact without all the details being disclosed.[1]

The Apostle Paul says that the “sacred secret” of God’s will is now revealed to Believers. And God let us in on this secret by His own good pleasure.

How Great Is Our God! Say it with me, “How Great Is Our God!”

Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:

We really need to understand two terms that Paul uses in this verse; that is the word “dispensation” and “fullness of times”. Dispensation is a term that means “the law or management of a household.” Theologically it means “the method in which God carries out His purposes towards men.” Paul’s use of the word in this verse means the “commission to preach the Gospel.”

Now God has never had but one method of saving folk; everything rests upon one method of salvation. The approach and the man under the system have been different, however. For example, Abel offered a lamb to God, and so did Abraham. The Old Testament priests offered lambs to God. God had said that was the right way. But I hope you didn’t bring a lamb to church last Sunday! That is not the way God tells us to approach Him today. We are under a different economy.[2]

“Fullness of times” means a point in time. It is time for the plan which God had previously hidden to be revealed to believers through Christ. In this case, it is time to reveal God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The clock of God, if I can use that term since God is beyond time, is moving forward to the event when God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, will return to the earth and rule as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. (Revelation 5:5)

Philippians 2:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

When my two sons, Sean and Rob, were teenagers and Michelle, my daughter, was just on the edge, I would have to begin the “countdown” on Sunday mornings so they would know that it was time to leave for church. I would begin by shouting “fifteen minutes kids before it is time to leave.” They knew that meant that I would be backing the car out of the driveway on our way to church in fifteen minutes. Soon I would follow-up with “ten minutes kids, all you have is ten minutes.” I called out “five minutes” and finally “I am walking out the door.” It was at this point that I would go to the car, sit and simmer! You see I was the only one on my time. Everyone else was on their own time schedule. Eventually all would get into the car and we were on our way, tying ties, pulling out curlers and applying makeup.

Jesus is coming back one day. The “fullness of time” is at hand. God has already shouted “fifteen minutes world, you have fifteen minutes.” Scripturally there isn’t another event in the prophecy concerning Jesus return that has to be accomplished.

Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:

Here is a wonderful truth. Christians have obtained an inheritance! God is giving us something we do not deserve. And this is all being done as per God’s will for those that love Him and believe on His Son. God knew this from the foundation of the worlds and he predestinated, it was all part of His Plan of Salvation.

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

All of the Scriptures are coming “in focus” since the birth of the Messiah. The Gospel message includes the birth, death and the resurrection of the Messiah, Immanuel, Jesus the Savior of man.

Ephesians 1:12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

All of the blessings that come from the Father and the Son are given to those “who first trusted in Christ.

Conclusion

Let us review “all the spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

  • God chose us to be holy and without blame (v. 4)
  • God predestined us to be adopted children by Jesus Christ (v.5)
  • God accepted us (v. 6)
  • Jesus redeemed us (v.7a)
  • God forgave us our sins (v. 7b)
  • God revealed His will to us (vv. 8-10)
  • God has made us an inheritance (vv. 11-12)

 

 

 

[1] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 222). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] McGee, J. V. (1997). Thru the Bible commentary (electronic ed., Vol. 5, p. 223). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Does God Have Authority in the Life of the Believer?

Using Galatians 1:1-5 as reference, the Apostle Paul gives an example of how the authority of God’s calling on our life should be protected and expressed.

 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead—and all the brothers who are with me,

To the churches of Galatia:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  (Galatians 1:1-5 ESV)

From a position of defending his call, the Apostle Paul gets right down to business and begins defending himself in the epistles salutation. He had a lot of ground to cover, and truth be known, so do men that are called of God into the ministry. A person that does not have the call of God to minster the Gospel, would never understand.

Paul declared to those looking to destroy his witness, that his calling and commission as an Apostle came from God and God alone; “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1). His apostleship was not voted on by other apostles as was the case with Matthias, but his came from his Damascus Road experience, where Jesus personally called Paul, just as he had called Peter, Andrew, James, John and the others. The only difference was Paul’s calling came from the resurrected Christ.

My personal calling into the ministry, was established and commissioned by God and Him alone. It was His prompting that I heard, not the voice of man. He hand was moving on my life and I made the decision to follow Jesus as a minister. My calling was just as true and sure as the Apostle Paul’s.

Just being around the Apostle Paul convinced believers, that the he was God’s man. The change in Paul was the greatest argument for his calling. Everywhere Paul went, there was no question that the man, who previously was charged by the Jewish leaders to bring Jewish converts of Christ to the Temple for trial, was now in the enemies camp, a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

For me, this is a daily focus of my life; that others would see Jesus in me by the works that Jesus does through me. I should show fruit for people to see and by doing so, they will know that I am a man of God.

Even though Paul was slandered, ridiculed and not trusted, he wept, prayed and cared for them as a true shepherd. God gave him the fertile ground of Galatia in which to work, and Paul pastored his flock. All his flock, the good, the bad and the worst, did not keep him from completing the task that God set before him.

As a pastor, it is heartwarming to see through the eyes of Paul, as he shepherds his flock. His example is a tribute to God’s grace. That is my goal as well; to love the hard to love and those that would persecute, say evil things against me or to falsely accuse me. I want to show the same love that Christ did on the cross as He said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” That is the heart of Christ, and Paul “got it” from the beginning of his ministry. That is a great comfort to me and great examples of shepherding a flock.

Paul never backed away from giving the Gospel of Christ. The cost of his ministry was summed up in his epistle to the church at Corinth:
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:21-28 ESV).

Paul’s example of continuing the course that God had placed before him, no matter what the circumstances, is a great example to me as well. While I have not been imprisoned, shipwrecked, stoned, cold, hungry or destitute, it is my desire to proclaim to the world the mighty salvation and work of Christ. To this end, Jesus has called me and to this end I will go.

While this blog has concerned the walk of the Apostle and the Pastor, it is also a great comfort to every believer. God has called us to become a “new man” in Christ. No one can take that away. The creator of the universe, cares so much for you that Yahweh sent His Son to die in your place. For the believer, our task is sure:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20)

Does God have authority over your life today?

What did the Apostle Paul believe concerning the Gospel of Grace as the only means of Salvation?

It is very important to understand the history of Paul. In his own words, he describes himself as: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (Acts 22:3-4).

Paul was not just a follower of Judaism; he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone that was not a devout adherent. This gives Paul great insight into the religion as well as describing his education. He was an enforcer of the Law. And yet now, he fully embraces salvation by grace as the only means of salvation.

Paul was God’s chosen vessel to proclaim grace to humanity and especially to the Gentiles. By his own words, it was by God’s grace that he was chosen for salvation and to be God’s messenger (Galatians 2:9).

Paul’s salvation (Acts 9) is well established by his first missionary journey in which he proclaimed the Gospel and started churches. His message of salvation is only by faith, by the Grace of God becomes the main point in all his writings.

The Apostle Paul, from the outset of the epistle to Galatia, is dealing with the heresy of adding requirements to the Gospel of Grace by faith. There is a great difference in believing that the grace of God is all that is required for salvation and those that would add works to salvation (circumcision in this case).

The Greek word for grace is charis. It is only found 13 times in the Gospels, but over 144 times in Paul’s writing. Paul’s epistles always use grace doctrinally, in connection with the dispensation of Grace.

The Apostle Paul goes so far as to proclaim; “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

Paul never said it was wrong for Jews to be circumcised. He never said that it was wrong to keep the Law or to observe the Jewish festivals. He said that these have nothing to do with salvation. While customs and practices may differ, salvation never differs. There is only one way to be saved and that is by the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Is there ‘life after life’?

 Revelation 21:1-2 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”

Many people will read the title and pass on the blog. They will do this because they already have an opinion about whether there is ‘life after life.’ There are those who believe that when you draw your last breath, that life, in all forms, is over. There is nothing else, no afterlife whatsoever. While others believe that if they are good in this life that they will come back as another being on this earth. Mainline Christianity believes that there is ‘life after life’. For those that follow Christ’s teachings and accept Him as their Savior, ‘life after life’ is known as heaven.

As a boy, I often wondered about what the afterlife would be like. I thought of what I would do in heaven. What would heaven be like? What would I do all day? Would I be allowed to play baseball or football or tetherball? Would we have baseball trading cards in heaven? Would I spend my time just gathered around the throne of God? What does a boy do around the throne of God anyway? Could I run, jump, skip, play tag with all the other children or would I not be allowed to make any noise at all? Would I have chores that I would need to do, make my bed, carry out the trash and even have to take a bath? Would I be given tasks by the angels or God Himself? And how long does it take you to get used to flying with those wings?

Those were some of the thoughts I pondered as a young boy. When the subject comes up, I find that everybody has a different opinion about what heaven would be like. After all, if heaven is supposed to be this utopia, then you would think it would be centered on your greatest wishes of what that life would be. Right?

For some heaven would be sitting out on your wooden patio deck, sipping on a large sweetened tea while listening to the wind rustling through the pine trees. In the background you can hear the sounds of a babbling brook. The sun would be bright, a perfect 75°F with a slight breeze. As you look beyond the trees surrounding your mountain property, you can see the ocean on the horizon with its waves and whitecaps. And all day, you would relax and enjoy your surroundings. No alarm clock going off at 5:30 AM. No deadlines to meet. No boss yelling at you, just a wonderful comfortable bliss.

Others may picture heaven as that early-morning walk through the dewy grass. You are surrounded by the beauty of trees and shrubbery. You are accompanied by great friends. The morning sun is just breaking through the trees as you bend over to firmly place your golf ball on the number one tee. Through the day, every swing of the driver would be down the middle of the fairway. Every iron you use would be the perfect shot. Your short game will put the ball just inches from the cup. Every putt would be a single putt. Every round would be perfect. No need for mulligan’s here.

As I talk with others, they believe heaven will be like walking to the shore of your favorite lake, getting into your boat and shoving off from the dock. The temperature would be in the low 80s and the sun will be shining. As you make your way to your favorite “honey hole”, you are filled with excitement. You make your first cast and as the lure hits the water you hook your first 5 pound largemouth bass. The bass leaps out of the water, shaking his tail and head, letting you know you’re in for a fight. Every cast, you catch a fish. Every fish is a record breaker. As you make your way back to the dock, the thought comes to your mind that tomorrow will be exactly the same.

Many things have changed since I was a small boy. My thoughts of heaven are no longer centered on me, but on Jesus sitting on His throne.

The Bible describes the New Heaven and New Earth like this;

 • No more tears

• No more death

• No sorrow, crying or pain

 • The beauty of the twelve gates of pearl

• The walls of the new Jerusalem are made of jasper stone and the city is made of pure gold

 • There will be no need of the sun as Jesus will be the light

• There will be a pure river running from the throne of God

• The Tree of Life will be in the city

I long to sing with the four beasts in Revelation 4:8 “…Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”

Is there ‘life after life?’   I would really like to know what you think the afterlife will be like.

Please leave your comments.

What is in a Name?

Matthew 1:21   “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

I subscribe to many email newsletters.  I admit that I don’t read every one but sometimes an article catches my eye.  This morning I found an eNewsletter with the interesting title, “A Famous Trio.”

The article started out listing many famous trios and I read on.  It was then that the author of the article broke one of my all time taboos.  He used the demonic names of a famous bible trio instead of their God honoring names.

Of course I refer to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  I would guess that in any church, those names would be very Recognizable, but their God honoring Hebrew names would only be known by a small number.  Why is that?

There are many people who’s names were changed in the Scriptures that are well known with.  For example:

  • Abram’s name was changed to Abraham
  • Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah
  • Simon’s name was changed to Peter
  • Saul’s name was changed to Paul

These are changes that God made, defining their character.  We use their names interchangeably and do not lose the meaning.

My beef comes when we refer to four young men in the Bible by their Babylonian names rather than their given names.

Look in your Bible in the opening chapter of Daniel and you will see this story.  Many young men were swept into bondage when Babylon captured the nation Israel.  These young men were the brightest of the nation.  But in order to “brain wash” them into the new surroundings and culture, they were given new Babylonian names.

Daniel was one of them and his name was changed to Belteshazzar.  The name Daniel means “God is my judge,” but his Babylonian name of Belteshazzar, means “Bel Protect the King.”  Bel is a god of the Babylonians.  We do not refer to Daniel by his Babylonian name but by his Hebrew name that has such power; “God is my judge.”

Why then does the world only remember the names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?  These three young men deserve much better than this.  I would not want to be remembered by the name a conquering nation gave me.  I would want to be remembered by the God honoring name my parents gave me.

I must confess that I grow weary when people use the Babylonian name instead of their Hebrew names.  Names were so important in the Bible.  When you look at the Babylonian meanings of these three, perhaps you will understand my opposition.

  • Shadrach means “Command of Aku,” Aku was a Babylonian god.
  • Meshach means “Who is what Aku is?”
  • Abednego means ““Servant of Nego,” which was the Babylonian god of vegetation.

So what were these young men’s names?  I am glad you asked.

  • Hananiah, “the Lord is Gracious,”
  • Mishael’s Hebrew name meant “Who is like the Lord?”
  • Azariah, “the Lord is my Helper,”

Look at the powerful Hebrew names compared to the demonic names given and decide how you will remember them in the future.

  • Hananiah – “the Lord is gracious” to Shadrach -“Command of Aku”
  • Mishael – “Who is like the Lord” to Meshach – “Who is what Aku is?”
  • Azariah – “The Lord is my Helper” to Abednego – “Servant of Nego”

Daniel 1:7 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

Those are my thoughts.  What are yours?

Bob Crowder