Category Archives: Spiritual Life

Christianity and the American Constitution

Until well into my life-time, the overwhelming majority of Americans believed that the United States was a Christian nation. In believing that, they did not desire the persecution of other religions, nor did they want to see people forced to become Christians, nor did they believe that one Christian denomination should be favored at the expense of others. They rejected the concept of one Christian denomination functioning as an established national Church, as the Churches of England and Scotland still do today in Great Britain.

But Americans overwhelmingly believed that Christian ideas and principles should receive favorable treatment and that its understanding of Moral Law should undergird the laws of the United States and the individual states. When other people’s religious practices came into conflict with Moral Law, Moral Law, not the practices of other religions, was always supreme. People were free to believe as they saw fit, but they could not practice their beliefs when those practices ran contrary to morality; they had to live by the Christian based laws of the United States. This can readily be seen through the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. As one example of how this has been worked out, one may note Davis v. Beason cited below, where Mormons were forbidden to practice polygamy, an early tenet of their faith, because it was contrary to Moral Law as understood by historic Christianity.

Two parts of the Constitution are often cited as evidence against this historic understanding of the role of Christianity in American public life:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 6

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, The Bill of Rights, Amendment I

Yet this same Constitution reflects a Christian understanding of morality:

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

The Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 7

The Historical Understanding of Christianity and the Constitution

“Probably at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the First Amendment to it . . . the general if not the universal sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the state so far as was not incompatible with the private religious rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship. An attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation . . . .The real object of the amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance, Mahometanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity; but exclude all rivalry among Christian sects, and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

[Justice Joseph Story (who served on the Supreme Court from 1811-1845) Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, 2 Vol. 2:593-95, 2nd Ed. Boston: Little Brown (1905)]

Justice Story’s understanding reflects the thinking of the framers of the Constitution, who expressed unbridled faith in God in the Declaration of Independence:

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them . . .

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights . . .

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (emphases mine.)

Such an understanding of the foundation of the American law was still reflected in the decisions of the United States Supreme Court just over one hundred years ago. Justice Josiah Brewer wrote on February 29, 1892, “Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.” [Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U.S. 457-458, 465-471, 36 L ed 226. (1892).]

A distinctively Christian view of the law is also reflected in Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333 (1890):

“Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho . . . It was never intended or supposed that the (First) amendment could be invoked as a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order, and morals of society. With man’s relations to his Maker and the obligations he may think they impose, and the manner in which an expression shall be made by him of his belief on those subjects, no interference can be permitted, provided always the laws of society, designed to secure its peace and prosperity, and the morals of its people, are not interfered with. However free the exercise of religion may [133 U.S. 333, 343] be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country, passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation. There have been sects which denied as a part of their religious tenets that there should be any marriage tie, and advocated promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, as prompted by the passions of its members. And history discloses the fact that the necessity of human sacrifices, on special occasions, has been a tenet of many sects. Should a sect of either of these kinds ever find its way into this country, swift punishment would follow the carrying into effect of its doctrines, and no heed would be given to the pretense that, as religious beliefs, their supporters could be protected in their exercise by the constitution of the United States. Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.” (emphasis mine.)

The Constitution and Blue Laws

What does the reference to Sunday in Article I, Section 7 above [“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) . . .”] constitute? It reflects the thinking that underlies what are commonly called “Blue Laws” and demonstrates that the framers of the Constitution did not have a non-theistic, abstract concept of law. The federal courts, in striking down state laws about Sunday, have done so recognizing that these laws reflect a commitment to a Christian understanding of the Ten Commandments:

“The parentage of these laws is the Fourth Commandment; and they serve and satisfy the religious predispositions of our Christian communities.” (The Supreme Court’s 1961 ruling on four separate cases, challenging Sunday closing laws: McGowan v. Maryland; Two Guys from Harrison-Allentown v. McGinley; Braunfeld v. Brown; and Gallagher v. Crown Kosher Supermarket) Article I, Section 7 demonstrates that the Moral Law of God, as understood by the followers of the Christian faith, is the foundation of our Civil Laws.

Religious Tests

While the framers of the Constitution were absolutely opposed to a national, established Church, they understood that in order for people’s words to be believed in court, they had to believe in God and future rewards and punishments in the world to come. At the time of the ratification of the federal constitution, most states had constitutionally defined, basic sets of beliefs that were necessary to be held by those who took oaths or held office. These were not seen to be in violation of the national constitution. As but one example, a person may note Article I of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, written in its original form by Benjamin Franklin and others:

“Religious Freedom

“Section 3. All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship.

“Religion

“Section 4. No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments shall, on account of his religious sentiments, be disqualified to hold any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.” (emphasis mine.)

In early America the very understanding of the word “oath” meant that the person taking it believed in God.

Oath: “A solemn affirmation or declaration, made with an appeal to God for the truth of what is affirmed. The appeal to God in an oath, implies that the person imprecates his vengeance and renounces his favor if the declaration is false, or if the declaration is a promise, the person invokes the vengeance of God if he should fail to fulfill it. A false oath is called perjury.”

Webster’s Dictionary (1828)

This understanding is reflected in how “Article 6” was explained in the ratifying conventions. For example, one may consider the words of James Iredell at North Carolina’s ratifying convention:

e North Carolina State Ratifying Convention                                                                             Wednesday, July 30, 1788

‘According to the modern definition of an oath, it is considered a “solemn appeal to the Supreme Being, for the truth of what is said, by a person who believes in the existence of a Supreme Being and in a future state of rewards and punishments, according to that form which will bind his conscience most.” It was long held that no oath could be administered but upon the New Testament, except to a Jew, who was allowed to swear upon the Old. According to this notion, none but Jews and Christians could take an oath; and heathens were altogether excluded. At length, by the operation of principles of toleration, these narrow notions were done away. Men at length considered that there were many virtuous men in the world who had not had an opportunity of being instructed either in the Old or New Testament, who yet very sincerely believed in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments . . . (Mr. Iredell describes a British court case involving a man from India who was neither a Christian nor a Jew and then concluded.) It appeared that, according to the tenets of this religion, its members believed in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments. It was accordingly held by the judges, upon great consideration, that the oath ought to be received; they considering that it was probable those of that religion were equally bound in conscience by an oath according to their form of swearing, as they themselves were by one of theirs; and that it would be a reproach to the justice of the country, if a man, merely because he was of a different religion from their own, should be denied redress of an injury he had sustained. Ever since this great case, it has been universally considered that, in administering an oath, it is only necessary to inquire if the person who is to take it, believes in a Supreme Being, and in a future state of rewards and punishments. If he does, the oath is to be administered according to that form which it is supposed will bind his conscience most. It is, however, necessary that such a belief should be entertained, because otherwise there would be nothing to bind his conscience that could be relied on; since there are many cases where the terror of punishment in this world for perjury could not be dreaded.’ (emphases mine.)

[Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d., Volume 5, Amendment I (Religion), Document 52.]

 The Establishment Clause

Thomas Jefferson’s 1802 letter to a group of Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut states that the purpose of the First Amendment was to build “a wall of separation between church and state.” Yet what President Jefferson meant by this wall is patently obvious from the weight of historical evidence cited above: namely, that this did not mean that there could be no point of contact between church and state. Civil governments have all kinds of laws that churches must obey: building codes, fire safety codes and zoning ordinances. None of these violate the liberty of churches to worship God according to their own liberty of conscience. Furthermore, there are times when the members of ecclesiastical bodies are simply unable to decide issues without submitting to the judgment of civil courts. A prime example of this would be contentions over the ownership of the church’s property.

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Jefferson’s Wall of Separation Letter

Thomas Jefferson was a man of deep religious conviction — his conviction was that religion was a very personal matter, one which the government had no business getting involved in. He was vilified by his political opponents for his role in the passage of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and for his criticism of such biblical events as the Great Flood and the theological age of the Earth. As president, he discontinued the practice started by his predecessors George Washington and John Adams of proclaiming days of fasting and thanksgiving. He was a staunch believer in the separation of church and state.

Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 to answer a letter from them written in October 1801. A copy of the Danbury letter is available here. The Danbury Baptists were a religious minority in Connecticut, and they complained that in their state, the religious liberties they enjoyed were not seen as immutable rights, but as privileges granted by the legislature — as “favors granted.” Jefferson’s reply did not address their concerns about problems with state establishment of religion — only of establishment on the national level. The letter contains the phrase “wall of separation between church and state,” which led to the short-hand for the Establishment Clause that we use today: “Separation of church and state.”

The letter was the subject of intense scrutiny by Jefferson, and he consulted a couple of New England politicians to assure that his words would not offend while still conveying his message: it was not the place of the Congress or the Executive to do anything that might be misconstrued as the establishment of religion.

Note: The bracketed section in the second paragraph had been blocked off for deletion in the final draft of the letter sent to the Danbury Baptists, though it was not actually deleted in Jefferson’s draft of the letter. It is included here for completeness. Reflecting upon his knowledge that the letter was far from a mere personal correspondence, Jefferson deleted the block, he noted in the margin, to avoid offending members of his party in the eastern states.

This is a transcript of the final letter as stored online at the Library of Congress:

Mr. President

To messers Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.

Gentlemen

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. my duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State. [Congress thus inhibited from acts respecting religion, and the Executive authorised only to execute their acts, I have refrained from prescribing even those occasional performances of devotion, practiced indeed by the Executive of another nation as the legal head of its church, but subject here, as religious exercises only to the voluntary regulations and discipline of each respective sect.] Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation on behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association assurances of my high respect & esteem.

(signed)Thomas Jefferson
Jan.1.1802.

Thomas Jefferson’s phrase in 1802 must be understood in light of what he said in his “Second Inaugural Address,” in 1805:

“In matters of religion I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken on no occasion to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them, as the Constitution found them, under the direction and discipline of the church or state authorities acknowledged by the several religious societies.”

Snippets of Thomas Jefferson’s “First Inaugural Address,” in 1801

“ . . . the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected.”

“And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.”

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Christian people are free to influence legislation that is in keeping with the moral principles of Christianity, and Christian parents are duty bound to see to it that their children are educated in light of Christian principles and morality. A godless educational system is a dreadful curse to American society, the very idea of which would have been abjured by the founders of our nation.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 New King James Version (NKJV)

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

 

Bob Vincent

Simply Sharing Jesus

Before He ascended to Heaven, Jesus gave His followers a basic command for what to do next. These words have served as “marching orders” for generations of Christians: 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matthew 28:19–20 NKJV).

Many of us have taken these simple instructions, known as the Great Commission, and overcomplicated them. We’ve made sharing our faith an intimidating and daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be.

Whether you regularly share your faith with others or have always found reasons not to, this course is designed to get back to basics and ultimately help you simply share Jesus.

LAYING the GROUNDWORK

Maybe you’re afraid to share your faith because you don’t know what to say. Or maybe you’re sharing the Gospel, but you aren’t seeing any results; people aren’t committing their lives to Christ. Are you wondering if you’re doing something wrong?

Know your role

Remember this: You can’t open someone’s heart to the Gospel—only God can, by His Spirit. Our job isn’t to save people. It’s simply to point them to the Truth and let God do the rest.

The Apostle Paul wasn’t eloquent, but God used him because he depended on the Holy Spirit for guidance (see 1 Corinthians 2:1–5). God guided many others in the Bible who felt unqualified, like Moses and Jonah. Often, God does not call the equipped; He equips the called. As Christians, we are all called to share what Christ has done for us. The Great Commission makes that clear. The good news is that we don’t go into it alone. We have this encouragement from Jesus: 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:11–12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

Christ Crucified

2 And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the [a]testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of [b]human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 NU mystery
    2. 1 Corinthians 2:4 NU omits human

Know your opportunity

So who should you share this message of hope with? God has placed you in a unique position—your very own mission field! Have you ever heard the expression “Bloom where you’re planted”? That’s what God wants us to do with the Gospel—make the most of our circumstances and reflect His love to everyone around us. You don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to tell people about Jesus, either; just think of all the people around you in need of hope.

Keep your eyes open for people you can talk to and listen for ways you can connect the conversation to Christ. Catch up with a family member by phone or text. Use social media to encourage a friend. Let a co-worker know you are praying for him or her. Take dinner to a neighbor in need. Ask a cashier how his or her day is going and really listen. Be intentional about forming relationships with people around you.

Know your audience

As you share with people, remember who you’re talking to and use language they will understand. The words and phrases you often hear in church might seem like a foreign language to a non-Christian. Avoid clichés and stick with phrases you can explain using Bible verses. Try to keep it simple.

Your friends or loved ones may not tell you they don’t understand, so look for visual clues that say they’re confused. Feel free to ask if they understand what you’re saying.

WHAT do I DO?

Live a godly life.

The Bible teaches that we should “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” (1 Peter 3:15 NKJV). People seldom come to faith in Christ through arguments and debates. Instead, they are often won by discovering who Jesus Christ really is and the difference He can make in their lives.

One of the best ways to share your faith and point others to Jesus is to live a godly life. Show those close to you that you care—spend time with them, help meet their needs, and offer to listen when they have problems. You might not be able to answer all of their questions, but they can’t deny the reality of what Christ has done in your life. If you find this is hard to do, perhaps God is speaking to you about your own need to walk more closely with Him every day.

Also, make a habit of reading the Bible, praying, and going to church. These things should be done not for attention or for the sake of doing them, but to help you grow in your own faith. Your passion for Christ will help others see that there’s something different about you, and they’ll want to know what it is. You can also reflect Christ through kind words, patience, a gentle temperament, love, and respect. You can be evidence of God’s love to those around you.

Pray for open hearts and open doors.

The most important part of sharing your faith is to pray for those you interact with. If you can’t think of anyone who isn’t a Christian, pray for God to place someone in your life who needs Him. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. As Billy Graham once said, “Prayer is crucial in evangelism: … No matter how logical our arguments or how fervent our appeals, our words will accomplish nothing unless God’s Spirit prepares the way.” Pray for the opportunity to share, the words to speak, and open hearts for those who hear.

Speak.

Living a godly life is essential for sharing our faith. But people need to hear the Gospel—to hear that God loves them, Christ died for them, and they can have eternal life.

Romans 10:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)

13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Israel Rejects the Gospel

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?

When you share the Gospel, be ready to also share true stories of God’s power in your own life. No matter how ordinary your life may seem, you have a story to tell, and you never know what it can mean to someone until you share it. Jesus often talked in parables so people could better grasp God’s plans, instructions, and power. In the same way, you can use personal experiences and stories to relate to others and tell them about Christ.

Keep in mind that you may only have a few minutes. Try writing down your story—and focus on a few key points. Then practice telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow telling it so it comes naturally. These questions may help you narrow your story down to three minutes or so:

• What was life like before you accepted Christ?

• How did you receive Christ?

What did you hear? How did you respond? Why did you choose to put your trust in Christ? Try to mention a Bible verse or two but be careful not to overwhelm your listener.

• How has life changed since you accepted Christ?

It’s OK if you stumbled or struggled in the past; in fact, your walk with Christ won’t be free from setbacks until you see Him face-to-face in heaven. The important thing is to be honest and relatable. Scripture is filled with stories of God’s people who stumbled along the way, and He still used them in powerful ways.

The GOSPEL in 4 SIMPLE STEPS

The Gospel itself isn’t complicated. When you are explaining the facts, it may help to draw it on paper for your friend. On the top of your page, draw a graphic of God on one side of a chasm and us on the other. As you draw, share Bible verses that explain how the separation took place. Show how the cross bridges the chasm between God and us and how we can cross the bridge through faith in Christ. Talk to your friend about these four simple truths:

1. God’s plan—peace and life.

God loves you and wants you to experience the peace and life He offers. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, NKJV). He has a plan for you.

2. Our problem—separation from God.                        

By nature, we are all separated from God. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NKJV). He is holy, but we are human and don’t measure up to His perfect standard. We are sinful, and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23, NKJV).

3. God’s remedy—the cross.

God’s love bridges the separation between you and Him. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave, He paid the penalty for your sins. The Bible says, “‘He himself bore our sins’ in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’” (1 Peter 2:24, NIV).

4. Our response—receive Christ.

You cross the bridge into God’s family when you accept Christ’s free gift of salvation. The Bible says, “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 English Standard Version (ESV)).

To receive Christ, a person needs to do four things:

  • Admit that you are a sinner and you need the Savior.
  • Be willing to turn from your sins, and ask God to forgive you.
  • Believe that Jesus Christ died for you on the cross and rose from the grave.
  • Invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life through the Holy Spirit. Romans 10:13 says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (New International Version (NIV))

Here’s a prayer you can pray to receive Christ:

Dear God, I know that I am a sinner. I want to turn from my sins, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ is Your Son. I believe He died for my sins and that You raised Him to life. I want Him to come into my heart and to take control of my life. I want to trust Jesus as my Savior and follow Him as my Lord from this day forward. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

FOLLOW-UP

If your friend sincerely prays, he or she now has a new life in Jesus Christ! You will want to share some Bible verses (such as 1 John 5:12–13) to give your friend assurance of his or her new standing before God.

1 John 5:12-13 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Finally, when you help a person in coming to faith in Christ, remember that this individual is a spiritual baby (1 Peter 2:2). In order to grow, an infant needs nurture and care. The same is true spiritually; encourage your friend to begin to read the Bible and pray regularly. Help him or her find a Bible-teaching church in order to have fellowship with other believers in Christ and continue to grow.

1 Peter 2:1-3 New King James Version (NKJV)

Our Inheritance Through Christ’s Blood

2 Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow [a]thereby, 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Footnotes:

    1. 1 Peter 2:2 NU adds up to salvation

The Salvation Poem

Jesus, You died upon a cross
And rose again to save the lost
Forgive me now of all my sin
Come be my Savior, Lord, and Friend
Change my life and make it new
And help me, Lord, to live for You

What Are the Seventy Weeks of Daniel?

The “seventy weeks” prophecy is one of the most significant and detailed Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. It is found in Daniel 9. The chapter begins with Daniel praying for Israel, acknowledging the nation’s sins against God and asking for God’s mercy. As Daniel prayed, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and gave him a vision of Israel’s future.

The Divisions of the 70 Weeks

In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy “sevens” should be understood as seventy “weeks” of years, in other words, a period of 490 years. These verses provide a sort of “clock” that gives an idea of when the Messiah would come and some of the events that would accompany His appearance.

The prophecy goes on to divide the 490 years into three smaller units: one of 49 years, one of 434 years, and one 7 years. The final “week” of 7 years is further divided in half. Verse 25 says, “From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’” Seven “sevens” is 49 years, and sixty-two “sevens” is another 434 years:

49 years + 434 years = 483 years

The Purpose of the 70 Weeks
The prophecy contains a statement concerning God’s six-fold purpose in bringing these events to pass. Verse 24 says this purpose is 1) “to finish transgression,” 2) “to put an end to sin,” 3) “to atone for wickedness,” 4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” 5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and 6) “to anoint the most holy.”

Notice that these results concern the total eradication of sin and the establishing of righteousness. The prophecy of the 70 weeks summarizes what happens before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom. Of special note is the third in the list of results: “to atone for wickedness.” Jesus accomplished the atonement for sin by His death on the cross (Romans 3:25Hebrews 2:17).

The Fulfillment of the 70 Weeks
Gabriel said the prophetic clock would start at the time that a decree was issued to rebuild Jerusalem. From the date of that decree to the time of the Messiah would be 483 years. We know from history that the command to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Nehemiah 2:1-8).

The first unit of 49 years (seven “sevens”) covers the time that it took to rebuild Jerusalem, “with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble” (Daniel 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.

Using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, 483 years after 445 B.C. places us at A.D. 30, which would coincide with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9). The prophecy in Daniel 9 specifies that after the completion of the 483 years, “the Anointed One will be cut off” (verse 26). This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified.

Daniel 9:26 continues with a prediction that, after the Messiah is killed, “the people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary.” This was fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The “ruler who will come” is a reference to the Antichrist, who, it seems, will have some connection with Rome, since it was the Romans who destroyed Jerusalem.

The Final Week of the 70 Weeks
Of the 70 “sevens,” 69 have been fulfilled in history. This leaves one more “seven” yet to be fulfilled. Most scholars believe that we are now living in a huge gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. The prophetic clock has been paused, as it were. The final “seven” of Daniel is what we usually call the tribulation period.

Daniel’s prophecy reveals some of the actions of the Antichrist, the “ruler who will come.” Verse 27 says, “He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’” However, “in the middle of the ‘seven,’ . . . he will set up an abomination that causes desolation” in the temple. Jesus warned of this event in Matthew 24:15. After the Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel, a time of “great tribulation” begins (Matthew 24:21, NKJV).

Daniel also predicts that the Antichrist will face judgment. He only rules “until the end that is decreed is poured out on him” (Daniel 9:27). God will only allow evil to go so far, and the judgment the Antichrist will face has already been planned out.

Conclusion
The prophecy of the 70 weeks is complex and amazingly detailed, and much has been written about it. Of course, there are various interpretations, but what we have presented here is the dispensational, premillennial view. One thing is certain: God has a time table, and He is keeping things on schedule. He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we should always be looking for the triumphant return of our Lord (Revelation 22:7).

Recommended Resource: Daniel: The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentary by Walvoord & Dyer

Related Topics:

What are the seventy sevens in Daniel 9:24-27?

What is going to happen according to end times prophecy?

Who Needs God With Andy Stanley

Who Needs God Episode 1: “Atheist 2.0”

INTRODUCTION

Americans are migrating away from religion, particularly Christianity, at an unprecedented rate. Once upon a time, Americans believed religion offered solutions. Today, religion is viewed by many as the problem.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What kind of faith or religion was a part of your upbringing, if any? What has been your experience as an adult with what you were taught as a child to embrace?
  2. Do you agree with the idea that when we move away from something, we are in essence moving toward something else? If so, when it comes to faith, what do you feel  you are moving away from? And as a result, what do you feel you are moving toward?
  3. Andy stated that just because something is unsettling doesn’t mean it isn’t true. What about Christianity unsettles you the most? What about atheism unsettles you the  most?
  4. Do you believe the process of walking away from faith or religion is more personal or more intellectual? Explain.

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from something moves us in the direction of something else.

Who Needs God Episode 2: “Gods of the No Testament”

INTRODUCTION

Typically, people who don’t believe in God don’t believe in a particular version of God. But what if they have the wrong version? What if you have the wrong version? If you’ve walked away from faith or religion, it could be that your version of god never existed in the first place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Where did your view of God originate?
  2. Did you inherit any of the following “growing up gods”? If so, which one(s)?

        Bodyguard god: prevents bad things from happening

On-demand god: honors fair and selfless requests

Boyfriend god: makes its presence known

Guilt god: controls through guilt and fear

Anti-science god: forces trade of the undeniable for the unreliable

Gap god: becomes the explanation for the unexplainable

  1. If at any point in life you decided to walk away from faith or religion, would you say that any of these “growing up gods” contributed to that decision?
  2. To what extent do you associate religion with guilt?
  3. During this episode, Andy said the choice between God and science is a false alternative and that, “If everything were explained and explainable, it would not explain away God.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

BOTTOM LINE

Walking away from a god that never existed doesn’t mean there isn’t one that does.

Who Needs God Episode 3: “The Bible Told Me So”

INTRODUCTION

If the Bible is the foundation of the Christian faith, then as the Bible goes, so goes the legitimacy of Christianity. But what if the Bible shouldn’t hold that much weight in the debate? In this episode, Andy explains that Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible any more than you exist because of your birth certificate.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. In the stories you’ve heard from others about their decision to walk away from Christianity, or perhaps in your own story, what have been the reasons? Do any of those reasons  stem from what they’ve been told is true about God or the Bible?
  2. Describe one question or concern you have about something you’ve read or heard about in the Bible. Do you believe it must be resolved in order to further consider Christianity?
  3. How do you think 1st, 2nd, and 3rd century Christians managed to endure significant hardship and effect change in the political landscape of their time without access to a  Bible? What do you think inspired or compelled them forward?
  4. If debates about Christianity no longer centered around Is the Bible true? but shifted to Who is Jesus?, how might the conversation change?

BOTTOM LINE

Christianity doesn’t exist because of the Bible; Christianity exists because of something that happened.

Who Needs God Episode 4: “The God of Jesus”

INTRODUCTION

It’s easy to get caught between doubt and despair when we’ve always assumed God to be bodyguard god, on-demand god, guilt god, etc. If God has lost his appeal because we’ve mixed him up with a gaggle of gods that don’t exist, then how can we know what God is really like?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. What is your reaction to the conclusion that Christianity isn’t rooted in blind faith, but in observable evidence? Do you agree with Andy that Christianity never would have made it out of the first century otherwise?
  2. Given the evidence for the viability of Christianity as it’s been presented so far in the series, do you think what Jesus had to say about the nature of God is worth considering?
  3. God is Spirit. In your opinion, is it plausible that God as “spaceless, timeless, and immaterial” could be the “first cause” that science is looking for?
  4. God is Father. Is it difficult for you to view God as a perfect father? Why or why not? What is one thing in your life that could change if God became that personal to you?
  5. God is Love. Much like in Andy’s analogy of shade requiring sun in order to exist, do you agree that evil requires good? If so, does that help to explain how God, in his essence,  could be love, despite the existence of evil in the world? What are the holes in that  idea?

BOTTOM LINE

The God of Jesus is Spirit. The God of Jesus is Father. The God of Jesus is Love.

Who Needs God Episode 5: “In-Justice For All”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to rid the world of injustice. But we can only recognize injustice if we know what justice is to begin with. We don’t always agree about what is just. So, who gets to define justice?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. When have you seen injustice in your world? How did it influence the way you see God?
  2. Do you believe there is an objective standard of “dignity and justice for all”? If so, where do you believe it came from? Do you think it varies from one culture or society to the next?
  3. During the message, Andy said, “When we reject God because of injustice, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  4. Is it easier to regard pain and suffering in the world as an argument against the existence of God or as a reminder of our need for God? Explain.
  5. Does it make sense why God provided a way to save humanity from its shortcomings instead of choosing to judge humanity for them? Are you glad that God went that route? Why or  why not?

BOTTOM LINE

When we reject God because of injustice in the world, we don’t solve injustice. We lose the definition.

Who Needs God Episode 6: “I Do”

INTRODUCTION

We all want to be masters of our own destinies. We all want to feel in control of our lives. The idea of autonomy is attractive; it makes life feel ordered and predictable. One of the biggest barriers to belief in God’s existence is that we don’t want to need God. But what if autonomy is an illusion?

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Talk about a time when you admitted you were wrong about something. How difficult was it for you to change your mind? What happened to cause that change?
  2. “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Be honest with yourself: how does this quote by Blaise Pascal  apply to your belief in or rejection of the existence of God?
  3. Assume for a moment that God does exist. What is your reaction to that notion, and how does it make you feel? As Andy describes in the episode, can you relate to feeling guilty,  accountable, or wrong?
  4. If unaccountable people make regretful decisions, to whom would you say you are ultimately accountable?
  5. What if the existence of God brings forgiveness, relationship, and truth? What is attractive or unattractive about each of those ideas?

BOTTOM LINE

Humility makes us wiser, smarter, and open to growth. Humility is the way forward.

The Ideal Woman

Let us examine the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs.

It seems that women are very much in the news these days:

  • Leading marches in order to demonstrate their political power and influence.
  • Standing up to and denouncing predators and abusers.
  • Championing the rights of woman to compete fairly in every area of business, politics, sports, entertainment, etc.

On the face of it, it would be hard to find fault with any of these individual initiatives and objectives. Women’s vote should be considered crucial by politicians and women should be judged on their skills and training and not their gender when it comes to employment and opportunity for advancement in any area of endeavor. And we, as a society, should never enable, ignore or defend predators or abusers, no matter how rich or famous or talented they are.

All these issues are logical and just but I can’t help but think that the ultimate goal of these and other movements headed up by women is to erase any difference there may exist between the sexes.

I would go one step further and suggest that there may be some that are hoping that the women’s movement will ultimately lead to a society where women dominate men. I have no idea of exactly how this would work but I am fairly confident that if dominance is the goal, women will eventually be guilted of the same kind of cruel and unjust actions that abusive men have made who sought the same kind of power.

In today’s society it seems that men are encouraged to become more like women and women are demanding to be treated more like men. In addition to this, young people are told that they can explore every shade of gender identity until they find a sexual personification that they feel comfortable with. And we wonder why, according to Psychology Today, the suicide rate among young adults (millennials) has tripled since the 1950’s. And suicide is the second most cause of death among college students.

In answer to this worrying trend and confusion over what is male and female the Bible makes a clear and defining statement: “God created man in His own image, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). There are only two sexes, they are different and they are meant to be different. As the French say concerning men and women, “vivre la différence!” (long live the difference).

Since I began this lesson referring mainly to women, I’d like to focus on the female gender in defining some of the important characteristics that defines, not just a women, but what defines a Godly women. You see, there is nothing wrong with a women who desires political and economic opportunity, and refuses to be victimized by some abuser. These are all well and good – it’s just that these goals belong to the world and are appreciated only here below.

What I desire for women is that they aim higher, for goals that are above, that belong to the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of darkness here below. For this reason, I’d like to share with you the portrait of an ideal woman designed by God and revealed some 3,000 years ago in Solomon’s book of Proverbs. In this passage, Solomon indicates some of the qualities possessed by the ideal women who is pleasing to God.

Description of an Ideal Woman – Proverbs 31:10-31

At the end of the book of Proverbs there is a beautiful acrostic poem extolling the virtues of the ideal woman. Acrostic poems are those where each line of poetry begins with subsequent letters of the alphabet. In this poem the writer begins his description by saying one thing about the virtuous woman – She is rare.

10 A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.

Not every woman is like this, he says; just like not every piece of jewelry is precious – pearls are precious because they are rare and hard to find (all jewelry shines but not all are valuable).

A virtuous woman (inner strength) is hard to find, even harder to find than precious Jewels.

What makes her so valuable? – vs.11-12

11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

The writer summarizes her value in describing her relationship to her husband – she is trustworthy. The author tells us that the innate quality that this woman possesses is her trustworthiness. Not just to her husband but as an essential quality that she has as a person (with or without a husband, she is trustworthy).

When you have found a woman like this, you have found a precious stone.

Outward Signs of Inward Qualities – vs. 13-24

In the following verses the author goes on to describe the outward signs that reveal that precious inward quality of trustworthiness.

 She is a good manager and hard worker

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

The author gives several examples of her hard work and good management.

  • 13 – Cheerful in her work. She doesn’t complain or see her work as a burden.
  • 14 – She uses imagination in preparing food and is a wise shopper, careful with her money.
  • 15 – Manages her responsibilities well in her home. She is “on top” of the situation concerning her affairs.
  • 16; 24 – She has good business sense and knows how to turn a profit. Without sacrificing her home, she is able to use her business talents to the advantage of her home. She doesn’t ruin her home with outside work She builds it up.
  • 17-19 – She is not afraid of hard work and does not waste her time at home. This is a woman who knows the difference between leisure and laziness. She demonstrates that a well-managed home is a profitable enterprise. She understands that “time” is “money” even for the woman who is at home and uses her time at home profitably. A well-managed home is like a second income.
  • 21-23 – By her work at home she contributes to her family’s and her husband’s reputation in the community. Her children are clean, well fed and mannered, as is her husband and this is a reflection of their home, of which she is the manager.

If marriage is a partnership the woman that the author describes here is a good partner to have. So in describing the outward signs that point to the inward quality of the ideal woman the author begins by describing the things that make her a good manger and hard worker.

Good Character and Reputation – vs. 25-27

25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.

The second outward sign that reveals this trustworthiness is her good character and reputation within her community. Says 4 things about her character:

  • 25 – Kind and generous. James tells us that benevolence to the poor and homeless is the sign of true piety (James 1: 27). She is truly a spiritual woman with a Godly character. She has confidence. She is not afraid of the future (near or far) because her faith and good works cover her with honor and power. She is a person who is at ease in her conscience because her heart and hands are busy doing what is right. She is not guilt ridden or depressed because she is busy giving herself away to others she loves.
  • 26 – She is wise. Her tongue is not for gossip but rather for edification. This is one of my own mother’s qualities and one I have also found in my wife. Both never use their words to destroy always to build others up beginning with myself and our children and then others. This is wisdom from above and the woman of the poem demonstrates that she has this.
  • 27 – She is concerned, but her first and primary concern is her home and family. It is not that she isn’t concerned with the problems of her society (She does help the poor etc.) but the concerns of her home are first. When we take care of our own home first there are usually less problems in the world. She is aware of the needs of her family and the community and concerned about fulfilling them using all of her skills and qualities refined through years of service and practice.

Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that the man is the head of woman and consequently the head of the home but Lemuel, the writer of this material, balances out this picture by showing us that the woman is the heart of the home. When the head and the heart are in union with Christ as the Lord of the home, what a wonderful place that home is.

The Rewards of the Ideal Woman – vs. 28-31

In the last few verses the author describes the rewards awaiting such a person and clear signs that she is a virtuous woman. She has this trustworthiness demonstrated by Good stewardship of her home and a Godly character and these bring her rewards:

  1. Her family praises her

28 Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
29 “Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”

Her children are thankful that they have a mother like her – what a reward for a mother, grateful children. Her husband sees her as the best of all women. Suggest his absolute fidelity and devotion.

  1. Her community praises her

Her neighbors, friends and community see her as a woman of value and character.

In the end the author summarizes the true essence of the value of this person.

30 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
31 Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.

Her motivating factors are not beauty or charm (social acclaim) She is a person that fears (respects /obeys) the Lord – this is what motivates her. Her desire to work well, to serve others, to develop a good character are inspired by her basic faith and desire to obey God, who wants all of his daughters to become women of value.

Summary

Notice some of the things that were not mentioned here:

  1. Her looks (skin, hair, weight, height, figure)
  2. Her independence (Not even a question for her)
  3. Her knowledge / education

These were not mentioned not because they are not in themselves important but rather because they did not make her more valuable one way or another.

Notice however what was mentioned as important:

  1. Her work concerning her responsibility towards her husband, family, community (N.T. times = church)
  2. Her attitude of kindness and wisdom
  3. Her confidence and lack of guilt
  4. Her reward of praise from the three groups that she serves: Family / Community

And of course God Himself praises her because she serves Him and He wrote this poem in her honor.

Exhortation

We have extremes in recognizing woman in or society. Either we have a day that honors only those women that have children (Mother’s Day) or the various organizations that promote those women who see themselves as feminists.

I want to encourage those women who work hard in raising children but I want to include all those women who are striving to become women of valor in our society, regardless of their status. – and who are these women in our day?

Women who are resisting the pressure from the Media and society to work only on the outward beauty but through patient obedience to Jesus Christ are creating a beautiful inward person.

Women who, in a thousand ways, every day serve their husbands and / or families, church and school and community and do so with a smile, sincerity and diligence.

Women whose strongest desire is not to be free and independent but rather desire to be useful, kind, and generous to those who are in need.

Women who are keeping themselves pure and ready for the return of Jesus Christ.

For these women, whether they are married or widowed or single; with or without children – I pray that God will bless you as true women of valor. I also pray that as the precious jewels that you are, you will shine forth among all others and receive the reward of praise that you so richly deserve.

Invitation

For those women who want to become the virtuous women spoken of here:

First step is to give your life to Jesus in repentance and baptism. In so doing you become pure again, no matter what you’ve done and special in Gods sight.

If you’ve gone away from Him and not been the kind of woman God wants you to be, repent and come back to him for forgiveness and restoration.

Proverbs 31 Woman (3).jpg

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Can We Win People for Christ?

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more . . .” —I Corinthians 9:19

In John 10:35Jesus Christ makes a parenthetical statement that is easy to overlook, and yet it is a foundational principle when it comes to understanding the Bible. He says, “. . . and the Scripture cannot be broken. . .” (emphasis mine throughout).

John 10:35-36 (NKJV)

35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

The written Word of God is another part of His creative work, and in His inspired words, we see the same forethought, consistency, and magnificence that we see in everything that God does. Because His character is true and constant, the Scriptures can never be contradictory. When we encounter something in them that seems incongruous, the defect is only in our understanding, not in what God has provided for us.

The religious tradition that took root and gained prominence after the deaths of the first-century apostles did not hold this principle unscathed, and as a result, formal Christianity today holds doctrines that are an unholy mixture of portions of the Scripture, along with pagan beliefs and philosophies that have been picked up through the millennia. In contrast, true doctrines fit together in a unified whole, each one supporting and reinforcing the overall body of beliefs. Because of this, if one doctrine is changed or misapplied, the consistency of the whole begins to unravel.

A clear example of this is what the Bible steadfastly shows regarding God’s calling and election. Scripture teaches that a man cannot even approach the Messiah unless the Father draws, or calls, him (John 6:44: 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”). In other words, salvation is not available to all people right now. But because not all professing Christians truly hold to the infallibility of God’s Word, many believe that anyone can accept Jesus Christ as his Savior, and all that is needed is for other Christians to win over the unsaved. Sometimes this belief is pure and altruistic, and at other times the belief is shaded by a desire to win a person over to a particular denomination or administrative entity. Either way, the conventional religious wisdom is that we can—and should — “win people for Christ.”

However, this belief does not exist in a vacuum. A person’s understanding of God’s calling is linked with his belief in the different resurrections. It is crucial to the understanding of Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles because these festivals symbolize different physical and spiritual harvests—one early, smaller harvest and one later, much larger harvest. It shapes the understanding of the gospel of the Kingdom and tempers expectations on the effect when the world hears the gospel. If the scriptures about God’s calling are broken, then many other core beliefs begin to break down as well.

 Winning the More

However, one passage seems to suggest that Paul tried to win people for Christ. It is found in  Corinthians 9:19-22:

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as wIithout law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”

Paul mentions five times here that he is trying to “win” different people, and in verse 22, he writes that he is trying to “save some.” This passage is commonly interpreted that Paul would present himself differently in various circumstances to win people for Christ; he became all things to all men in order to “save” at least some of them. This interpretation fits the general evangelical belief that Christians should do whatever is necessary to “win souls for Christ” and to get all manner of people “saved” before they die.

However, if that is what this passage means, then holy Scripture is broken! Such a reading contradicts numerous other clear biblical statements. For example, as alluded to above, in John 6:44,  Jesus says, No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him.” A little later in John 6:65, He reiterates this: “. . . no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” Without the Father providing an individual an approach to Christ, he cannot come to Him for salvation. The Father must intervene first—human intervention makes no difference.

Acts 13 contains the story of Paul and Barnabas preaching to Gentiles in Antioch. Luke writes in verse 48: “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Even though the apostles preached to many, only certain people believed what they heard because only they had been appointed to eternal life.

John 17:3 provides a basic definition of the eternal life to which some were appointed: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Eternal life, then, is not merely endless living, but is the quality of life that comes from having relationships with the Father and the Son—and only the Father determines who will have such relationships during this age. Those who are not appointed to eternal life now will have their opportunity in the second resurrection.

This parallels Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:8 that grace and saving faith are both gifts from God (For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,”). He is not beholden to give the faith that saves—that is why it comes as a gift only to some. In fact, in II Thessalonians 3:2, the apostle says that “not all [men] have faith.” An interlinear Bible will show that the Greek contains a definite article— “the”—before “faith”: “not all have the faith.” There is a specific faith, but only those to whom God gives it have it.

Jesus declares, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Claiming Jesus as our Lord has no effect if He does not know us ((23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ verse 23), and as John6:44   shows, the Father determines whether a person can even approach Jesus Christ (44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”).

In Acts 2:38, Peter speaks about receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then he says, “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call (verse 39). But without that calling, the promise does not apply. Likewise, Jesus declares that many are called, but few are chosen (Matthew 20:1622:14).

Many verses mention God’s specific foreknowledge, calling, and election of some and not others (Acts 13:222:14Romans 1:6-78:28-309:1111:216:13I Corinthians 1:91:24-28Galatians 1:65:8Ephesians 1:4;4:1Colossians 3:15I Thessalonians 1:42:124:75:24II Thessalonians 1:112:13-14I Timothy 6:12II Timothy 1:9Hebrews 3:19:15I Peter 1:22:95:10II Peter 1:10Jude 1Revelation 17:14).

Clearly, God has specifically determined who will come into a relationship with Him during this age—and it is not everyone!

If the scriptures are to remain unbroken, either all of these examples of God limiting salvation right now are wrong, or the common interpretation of I Corinthians 9:19-22 misses the mark!

 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NKJV)

 Serving All Men

 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law,[a] that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God,[b] but under law toward Christ[c]), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as[d] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU-Text adds though not being myself under the law.

b. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads God’s law.

c. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU-Text reads Christ’s law.

d. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU-Text omits

To Win Is to Gain

What Paul means in this passage becomes clear when we understand the sense and usage of two Greek words, those translated as “win” and “save.” In the evangelical world, both of them have taken on lives of their own, but with just a little digging, we will see that no contradiction lies between this passage and the numerous other clear statements.

The word translated as “win” is kerdaino (Strong’s #2770), and its basic meaning is “gain,” which is how it is typically translated. It means “to acquire by effort or investment.” It can mean “to earn” or “to make a profit.” The flipside is that it can also mean “to cause a loss not to occur.”

This word is used infrequently, but the verses that contain it are well known. For example, Jesus uses it when He cautions against gaining the whole world yet losing one’s own soul (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36Luke 9:27). The gain is a physical or material one—it is not speaking of evangelizing the whole world. It also appears in the Parable of the Talents, where two of the servants gain more talents through their efforts and investments

(Matthew 25:16-22).

 Kerdaino is also found in the well-known Matthew 18:15, where Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” The gaining here is not about “winning” someone “for Christ.” When we gain our brother, we are gaining a better relationship. We are keeping a breach in the relationship from continuing. We receive a profit, as it were, by enhancing the connection or bond between us. There is no implication that we are opening his mind to the mysteries of God’s Kingdom. It simply means that after bringing a sin to his attention, if he hears and receives us, then we have gained our brother because the relationship has been restored. There is a similar usage in I Peter 3:1-2:

“Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.”

Quite a number of translators and commentators read into this verse that the example of the godly wife wins the husband to Christ. But Peter makes no mention of Jesus in these verses, nor is he saying that a godly wife has the ability to call, let alone convert, an unbelieving husband. As shown already, God alone retains the power to open a person’s mind and give him the faith that produces spiritual salvation.

This is not to deprecate the power of a good example in the least. Our example is a large part of whether we are upholding the holiness of God’s name or bearing it in vain. Our example gives evidence of our spiritual paternity, for either we will resemble Satan or we will resemble God. When we display the same characteristics as our heavenly Father, He is glorified, and those who observe our good example can see that God’s way of life produces good results.

However, even the very best example will not convert another unless God is also calling him or her. Even after 3½ years of walking and preaching on earth, the perfect witness of the Son of God did not convert everyone He encountered! If a good example were all that was needed, we could expect that everyone who observed Jesus would come to Him—but that is not what happened at all! After His death, there were only about 120 disciples (or perhaps 120 families; Acts 1:15). Obviously, God did not call every person who encountered Jesus—He will call them when they are resurrected.

Clearly, the conduct of a child of God is of utmost importance, particularly in the case of one spouse being called and converted while the other is not. Yet, even if the believing spouse sets a perfect example, “chaste conduct accompanied by fear” will not win the unbelieving spouse for Christ. Instead, the “winning” or the “gaining” in I Peter 3:1 is similar to the gaining of our brother in Matthew 18:15. Just as it may be possible (through our efforts) to have a more profitable relationship with a brother who sinned against us, so it may also be possible for a godly wife to gain the heart of an unbelieving husband, so that he respects her more and begins to let go of his animosity.

1 Peter 3:1-2 (NKJV)

Submission to Husbands

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.

Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)

Dealing with a Sinning Brother

 15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.

This is similar to Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” God can cause an enemy to begin looking favorably upon one of His children, and thus the former foe is gained. By our efforts, though, we can only gain a person in terms of the human relationship. We cannot cause a relationship to occur between man and God—only God can initiate that.

In the same way, the winning or gaining that Paul is striving for in I Corinthians 9:19-22 is simply protecting or improving the connection he had with the people he encountered. His gaining of these people was not the same thing as converting them or of opening their minds to the reality of God. He was trying not to be unnecessarily offensive, but the scope of his behavior was entirely on the level of human interaction, not on getting people saved in a spiritual or eternal sense.

Save Some” From What?

This leads us to verse 22, where Paul speaks of “save [ing] some.” Sometimes we have an automatic tendency to think of eternal salvation, or at the very least justification, whenever we hear the words “save” or “saved.” However, that is only one facet of the Greek word translated as “save,” sozo (Strong’s #4982), whose basic meaning is “to make safe.” It can be expanded to mean “to deliver or protect, either literally or figuratively.”

1 Corinthians 9:22 (NKJV)

22 to the weak I became as[a] weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

 Footnotes:

a. 1 Corinthians 9:22NU-Text omits

This word is frequently used in reference to physical deliverance from a dangerous or undesirable situation, and is often translated as “heal,” “preserve,” and “make whole.” When healing people, Jesus would tell them, “Your faith has made you whole. He was essentially saying, “Your faith has saved you”but the salvation was a physical one. The person was saved from a condition of misery.

In the highest sense, a person is not ultimately saved — “safe”—until he or she is no longer subject to death or to sin, which earns death. That is, we are not truly safe until “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). Until resurrected or changed at Christ’s return—until we are “like Him” (I John 3:2), and “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8)—we are subject to the corruption of our human nature, the breakdown of our physical bodies, and the cessation of life, all things that keep us from being eternally safe. Until we are spirit beings, we will always be in need of deliverance, protection, healing, and restoration. Even the salvation that takes place upon our repentance and the forgiveness of our past sins does not guarantee our future safety, for until we take our final breath, it is possible for us to turn away from God and reject His way of life.

When analyzing I Corinthians 9:22, then, we have to consider what kind of salvation Paul is talking about. Since no man is saved eternally at the point of conversion, he is not referring to eternal salvation. We also know that he could not have meant justification here either, because even an apostle does not have the power to justify. Nor was he given the authority to impart true belief. As we saw, only those whom God appoints to eternal life at this time are going to believe. So that sort of saving is not what Paul is talking about.

Before we get to the full explanation, we need to take a step back and understand how this passage fits with the rest of the epistle. I Corinthians 8-10 relate to the controversy over eating meat offered to idols. Paul’s basic teaching throughout these chapters is that it was far better for the Corinthians to deny themselves a perfectly lawful thing than to risk causing a brother to stumble. Through much of this instruction, he uses his own pattern of self-denial as an example, showing in various ways that he would go without lawful things to keep from causing unnecessary offense.

Thus, if he were interacting with the Jews, he would deny himself things that could be offensive to them but that technically would have been fine. It is not that he would compromise with God’s standards, but he would limit himself for the sake of not turning people away. This is what he was doing to gain them. By these means, he was working for a more profitable relationship. His basic point in the overall context is that, if he were willing to do this to gain people who were not even converted, then the Corinthians should be willing to limit and restrain themselves for the sake of gaining their own brethren. A person who is “gained” is more likely to hear what we have to say, so we may be used to help them in some way.

Seeking Positive Rapport

So what does Paul mean by writing, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? He may have been referring to their eventual salvation, which he might play a part in, but which he could not actually claim as having brought about. As he had previously written: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase”(I Corinthians 3:6-7).

1 Corinthians 3:6-7 (NKJV)

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

However, there is a type of “saving” that Paul could have a hand in through his preaching: “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)

James 5:19-20 (NKJV)

Bring Back the Erring One

19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul[a] from death and cover a multitude of sins.

Footnotes:

a. James 5:20 NU-Text reads his soul.

James is not referring to eternal salvation or justification. He means making a man safe by helping him to stop a sin. If a person is sliding into apostasy, and someone turns him back, a type of salvation has occurred, for the one who had been going astray is now on a safer trajectory. If an individual helps another avoid or overcome any sin, a type of salvation has occurred because there is always greater safety where sin has been diminished. This salvation is only a shadow of the kind that God gives, but a saving nonetheless occurs anytime protection or deliverance is provided.

Thus, I Corinthians 9:19-22 shows that, wherever possible, Paul practiced self-denial so that he could gain a positive rapport with others. In this way, he might help them because his preaching of the truth could stir repentance in some area. He is not suggesting that through his preaching or example a person would be justified and brought into a relationship with God, but that his life would be better because there would be at least a little less enmity toward God and His way.

Without compromising, Paul kept the door open so that he could preach, and perhaps his preaching would protect or deliver someone in a small way, even if God was not calling the individual. Nevertheless, Paul was not bringing people into a relationship with Christ, nor is he suggesting that we try to do that either.