Tag Archives: salvation

Compelling Questions for Those Who Believe Salvation Can Be Lost

I want to say from the start, I am not making the case here for the doctrine of the perseverance of the believer, even though I firmly believe it to be taught throughout Scripture. In fact, I could take up all the space on your screen with both a firm biblical argument for this doctrine, and a corresponding polemic against the opposite view if I needed to. At the present time, however, I am just looking for solid answers to some genuine questions I have for the individuals who do not believe in the doctrine of the believer’s perseverance. This doctrine is sometimes referred to as eternal security or the perseverance of the saints.  I will not post any Bible verses or any of “my interpretations” whatsoever in this post – I simply want answers to a few questions.

It’s pretty crucial because if any doctrine is to be proven biblical, and therefore true, then it should be fully developed in Scripture. In other words, it shouldn’t just be one thing and nothing else. It should be the game of basketball and not just the ball or the goal. If you hold the view that a believer can lose his or her salvation, you should be able to explain the whole doctrine with all of its facets and implications. It’s not enough to just say, “You know the Bible teaches you can lose your salvation, right?” You should be able to explain how this teaching, if true, relates to every other teaching in Scripture – and that’s where my questions come in. I want to know what the implications are for some other areas in Scripture if this teaching is biblical. I also want to know how it relates to other areas of the believer’s life. These questions have to be answered clearly, with examples, and with plenty of Scripture, otherwise there can be no real case for this view. It has to be more than just the ball – it must be the whole game.

With that said, all of my questions are listed below with brief commentary. Feel free to answer these questions in the comment section, or however you wish.

  • What must a believer do in order to lose his salvation?

In other words, what must take place for the believer to lose his salvation? If this teaching is true, then believers should definitely guard themselves against doing the very thing which causes him to lose his salvation. So what must the believer do to lose his salvation, what line must he cross, or what requirement must he fulfill to no longer be a believer?

  • Can salvation be regained? If so, how?

If there are passages which mean that salvation can be lost, then equally there must be passages which speak to it being regained. I may be wrong, but if God clearly prescribes what one should do in order to be saved, and if Scripture teaches salvation can be lost, then surely it states in some way that it can be regained. If it cannot be regained, then just say so. But if it can be lost, then surely it can just as easily be regained.

  • Can a believer lose their salvation multiple times, and can they regain it multiple times?

This is banking off the previous question, but if there is a way for the apostate to gain his salvation back, then can he lose it again? And if he can lose it again, then can he regain it again? Is there an endless cycle here, a certain number of times, or no such thing at all?

  • How does a believer remain saved, so that he doesn’t lose his salvation?

This is probably the most pressing question – if salvation can be lost then what must a believer do to ensure that he doesn’t? In other words, what must a believer do to maintain his salvation so that it cannot be lost? Or is it an absolute mystery, where you cannot know whether or not you have lost your salvation?

  • Who or what decides when a believer loses his salvation?

As an extension of the previous question, is there an action or person which decides that the believer becomes an apostate? Said another way, does the believer do something which causes him to lose his salvation or does God decide that unbeknownst to him?

  • What are the mechanics of how a believer loses his salvation?

This is something I would really like to know. What actually happens when a believer loses his salvation? I have a lot of questions following this one because of how extensive the effects of the gospel are for the believer. Is the Holy Spirit withdrawn from him and is he now dead in sins again? What happens to the progress he made during his sanctification? Does God remove the righteousness of Christ from his account, and credit his sin back to him? Does he have any recollection of what his life was like when he was saved? What spiritual state is the once-a-believer in, now that he is once again unsaved? Is everything about his salvation now reversed, or is he better or worse off than he was before?

  • What did Jesus actually accomplish through the atonement at Calvary if salvation can be lost?

Did Jesus die for all sins except for the one sin which causes the believer to lose his salvation (whatever it may be)? Is the atonement temporary, or eternal? What exactly is salvation for the believer who loses it? In my view, it is by all accounts a significant wreckage if salvation can be lost if it was purchased by Christ for the believer. Wouldn’t it be a waste of Christ’s crucifixion if the believer can lose what Christ bought for him?

  • Where, specifically in Scripture does it state that a true believer can lose his or her salvation?

While all of these questions are pressing, this is probably the most significant. If salvation can be lost, there should be clear exegetical proof from Scripture as a whole. It shouldn’t be a few verses here, and a few verses there. This should be a clear message throughout all of Scripture. Additionally, there should be plenty of examples of this in the Bible – nothing occurs in Scripture without an existing personal account.

So if you hold this view that a believer can lose his salvation, then feel free to answer below or e-mail me.

You’ve Got Questions: Can a Personal Testimony be Used for Evangelism, All by Itself?

A testimony  is defined as “evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something.” An example would be, “his blackened finger was testimony to the fact that he had hit it with a hammer.” But in the Christian realm, what we usually mean by testimony is our personal story of conversion, how we came to faith in Christ. It is our testimony of how we came to Jesus.

Many Christians share their testimony with their coworkers, family, and friends – recounting the events that led up to their salvation, and what their life is like now because of salvation. Some Christians aren’t sure how to share their testimony, and many simply do not because of fear of rejection. With that in mind, should we even share our testimony as an evangelistic effort? If we do share our testimony for evangelistic purposes, are there certain things we should keep in mind? Can a personal testimony be used for evangelism?

I would say, yes with certain qualifiers. A genuine salvation testimony will have in it the essential components of the gospel message. If it is a true conversion story, it will tell how conversion takes place. That is, how the gospel transforms sinners. It should include those basic elements of the gospel: realization of the need for Jesus, repentance from sin, and receiving Jesus as your Savior. For example, when I share my story, I make note of the fact that I realized I was a sinner, a turned away from sin once and for all and then placed my faith in Jesus and His finished work for my salvation and eternal life.

I understand, if we were to share our story in a hurry or with someone who we assume knows us personally, we may be tempted to leave out the gospel’s key elements for convenience. It might be a simple, “Jesus changed my life,” or “I gave my heart to Jesus.” However, it seems strange if we were to go through our testimony in a detailed manner with someone, and leave out the essential elements of the gospel message.

So then, a personal testimony “by itself,” should already have the key gospel elements included in it, but a testimony shared carelessly without those elements is not a good means of evangelism. It’s not evangelism at all if it doesn’t include the gospel.

And perhaps it is helpful to add at this point that while a personal testimony should already include the key gospel elements, I think it should lead one to share the key gospel elements as a separate conversation. We should use our own testimony as a bridge to sharing the truths of the gospel. We should begin with listening to someone’s story, sharing our own, and then sharing God’s story. With that being said, sometimes all we have time to share with someone is our own testimony, but if that is the case (and sometimes it will be), I believe we should place much more emphasis on God’s testimony about His Son: the gospel.


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Those Jesus Never Knew (Matt. 7:21-23)

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on the 12th day of October 2014: 

John Giles, Convict

Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay was home to the former federal prison of Alcatraz. This prison was in operation from the mid-1930s until the mid-1960s as our nation’s leading federal prison. It housed only the most dangerous criminals like Al Capone, George R. “Machine Gun” Kelly, and many others. Alcatraz was considered an inescapable prison—though 6 inmates attempting escape were never located. Prison records recorded them as drowned in the bay. Others dispute that claim saying they made it to freedom.

The US Army used to send laundry to Alcatraz to be washed. John Giles was an inmate who worked at the loading dock where the laundry was delivered. He was sneaky—piece by piece, he was able to steal over time a complete army uniform. Then on July 31, 1945, he merely dressed in the uniform and walked aboard an army boat, pretending to be an army officer. However, the boat was not headed for San Francisco as Giles expected, as he stepped off the boat on Angel Island, where Fort McDowell was, which was a major processing location for troops during WWII. He was arrested immediately.

He may have fooled the officers on the boat for awhile, but he couldn’t pull of the impersonation forever. He may have worn the uniform of an army officer, but on the inside he was still John Giles—criminal, convict.

One of the most sobering truths in all of Scripture is that not everyone who professes to be a Christian is truly a Christian. That there are some people wearing Christian uniforms on the outside, but are in reality unregenerate, unsaved sinners on the inside. They may fool people for a time, but they will not fool the Lord who knows His own. This theme runs throughout all of Scripture, but in Matthew’s gospel (which we are looking at today), there are some very powerful descriptions:

John the Baptist to the face of the Pharisees and Sadducees:

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:12).

A winnowing fork was a tool used to separate wheat from chaff, by throwing it into the air so the heavier grain/wheat can fall back on the ground . . . And the chaff which would only be on the surface, would be separated from the wheat and the farmers would gather the wheat into their barns, but burn the chaff because it was useless. One day Jesus Christ is going to clear out His threshing floor. He is going to gather into His arms the saved, the elect of God, but there are going to be those who were only on the surface but appeared to be part of the wheat—and they are the unbelievers and according to 2 Thess. 1:9, . ..“They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

Jesus in the parable of the weeds:

“He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:37-42).

What do you do with weeds in a garden? You take them out because they don’t belong—they contribute nothing, they are of no value to the rest of the garden, they may grow together, but the fruits and vegetables are the real thing. Back in 13:30, Jesus said that both grow together. There are those who profess faith in Christ, appear to be Christians but because they never had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and were truly justified by faith—they will not go to heaven, but to hell forever, and they will be surprised to find that out. These are those described by Matthew as those Jesus never knew, and we are going to look at this text together this morning.

The Text: Matthew 7:21-23, ESV

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

I. They Professed Him (v. 21)

The first thing to notice is Jesus’ introduction to this passage where He talks about the profession of these people: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus points out a limitation on those who say to Him, “Lord, Lord.” In Jesus’ time, “Lord, Lord” would have been a title of immense respect (like “revered teacher”). There may be those who say “Lord, Lord,” who proclaim His name, who highly respect Him, that will enter the kingdom of heaven—but according to Jesus, “Not everyone who says to [Him], ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” He tells His audience that there is a restriction from heaven, to some who use that title.

But Jesus’ point is not in the use or misuse of His name/title. Indeed, we are to respect His name and boldly proclaim it; the foremost problem is not the use of the title, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but the fact that the people Jesus is describing leave it at just that—it is only a profession of His name. The problem is claiming His name (as they do three times), but not living His way. They simply say in contrast to those who do the will of God (v. 21b). According to Jesus, these who simply profess faith “will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This means they are not going to be born again through profession of faith, and they will be denied entrance into God’s heaven because they never truly believed—it was only a profession; it wasn’t transformation. It becomes clear as you study this passage, that these people were never truly saved; These are not Christians who lost their salvation—that’s an impossibility.

The important thing to notice is the contrast Jesus makes between those who “say” and those who “do” here in v. 21. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” In contrast to the one who professes faith, Jesus says that the only person that will enter “the kingdom of heaven” is “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

If doing the will “of [the] Father” is what was lacking in those who professed faith, and it is required of those who go to heaven, then what does Jesus mean by doing God’s will? I believe Jesus’ meaning here is two-fold, but inseparable:

A. It is God’s Will for You to be Saved.

Jesus is talking about salvation in this passage. Salvation is needed to go to heaven, after we die. And while not everyone will receive salvation because of rejection of God, it is still God’s desire for all to be saved:

“As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11)

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

B. It is God’s Will for You to Do God’s Will.

But inseparable from salvation, if we are truly saved, our changed lives will be the sure result. Following salvation should be the desire to do God’s will and carry out His commands. Paul writes,

“ . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), but in that same text says “it is God who works in you . . .”

A changed life, and living by God’s will is the outworking that we have truly been saved.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4:3)

Sanctification involves growing in the faith, being delivered daily from the presence of sin. It is God’s will for us to continue in the faith (Col. 1:23), and our lives had better show evidence of our repentance and faith, or we never had repentance and faith.

Doing God’s will involves living by His principles, obeying His commandments, serving Him faithfully. Something doesn’t make sense when our actions deny our beliefs.

Thomas Linacre was physician to King Henry VII and Henry VIII of England. Late in his life, Thomas studied to be a priest and was given a copy of the four Gospels to read for the first time. Thomas lived through the darkest of the church’s dark hours under the rule of Pope Alexander 6th, who shamed Christianity with his murder, corruption, incest, and bribery. Reading the Gospels for himself, Thomas was amazed and troubled: “Either these are not the Gospels,” he said, “or we are not Christians.”

Our lives must demonstrate true belief in Christ—or we do not have true belief.

Does your life reflect what you say you believe? Your behavior is a reflection of what you truly believe. If it doesn’t there’s a problem—either you’re not saved, or you’re not being obedient to Christ. If you’re not saved, you can be—by repenting of your sins and turning to Jesus; placing total faith in His finished work on your behalf. If you’re not being obedient to Christ and doing God’s will—God can give you the strength to. You just need to surrender completely to Him. Whatever is stopping you from living out the faith you say you believe—it will be worth it when you get it out of the way so you can fully surrender to God.

II. They Defend Themselves (v. 22)

Not only did they profess Christ, but the second thing to notice here is how they defend themselves: “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (7:22).

A. “The Day of the LORD.”

Jesus says, “On that day.” What day? He is talking about the Day of the Lord, when all will stand before God in final judgment, where He will separate the wheat from the chaff—and will gather into Him His church, and the unsaved will depart into everlasting fire . . . where He will separate the weeds from the good seeds, where He will separate the believers from the non-believers.

The Old Testament referenced it:

“Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes” (Joel 1:13).

“They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him” (Malachi 3:17-18).

Also, Jesus and the New Testament writers warn of it:

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37).

“And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:11-15).

So Jesus is creating the setting for what He’s talking about here. “On that day” of judgment where He will reign as judge (Acts 17:31), He says, “ . . many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?”

Jesus doesn’t say that this is a select “few” who will say to this to Him, but “many.” How do they defend themselves? “Lord, Lord, did we not . . .” You can hear the tone of surprise in their voices—“Did you see what we did Lord? Did you forget? Did we not . . .” They are still saying the same thing as while they were on the earth (‘Lord, Lord’)—that means nothing has changed. They have not been born again, they are still sinners in need of a Savior.

The very fact that they defend themselves is an indicator that they are not saved. Because with Jesus, He’s all the defense you need. He took your case to the cross and settled it. On the Day of Judgment, all you’ll be able to say is “By grace I was brought to faith!” So then, this demonstrates that they were depending on something of their own merit, which they say: “did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?” They list off three things to defend themselves. There’s no doubt that they did these things, even Satan and his followers can perform miracles. Even Judas cast out devils in Mark 3:14-15, and he appeared to be a disciple, but it was shown that he was not. They even claim authority behind their deeds: “in your name” is mentioned three times.

But Jesus isn’t denying that they did indeed do these things—the paramount problem was that these sinners are trusting fully in their own merit—they are defending themselves by pointing to their works. And notice the high standard of their works—I can’t remember the last time I prophesied can you? I can’t remember any time I ever cast out a demon, can you? Those things are things that most people don’t even do or try to do in their lifetimes. But I think that’s Jesus’ point here: It doesn’t matter how great your works are, how high they are—they will not even get you near the presence of God. What if you plant a church on a foreign mission field? Nope. What if you lead thousands to Christ? Nope. What if you give up all you have and serve the poor? Nope.

B. Why Works Won’t Work

Why wasn’t their works enough (they did “mighty works”)? Why aren’t works enough?

1. It’s not the way God saves. (Jesus reveals later the chief problem was “I never knew you.”) It’s not the way God saves, so don’t try to get in that way! The only work you need is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross: “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus also tells His hearers in the Sermon on the Mount, that they must have a righteousness that is greater than outside-righteousness: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). We need His righteousness, and true heart transformation. If you’re going to be saved—it must be God’s way, the only way.

2. Good works cannot justify. We have sinned against God (Rom. 3:23), this demands holy punishment and wrath (Rom. 1:18; 6:23). Good deeds cannot satisfy the wrath and demands of a holy God. Only a perfect substitute can propitiate God’s wrath, and justify us in God’s sight. This substitute was Christ. His perfect work in becoming sin for us, and giving us His righteousness in exchange is enough (2 Cor. 5:21). Paul writes, “Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5). Again, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:21). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

3. The spiritual state of man. The current threat that is causing fear among peoples of the world is the spread of the fatal virus, Ebola. The latest report on the death toll of Ebola is 4,033.¹  But there is a worse spiritual Ebola that has claimed more lives than any other disease in the world. That disease is sin. The Bible says that we are “dead in sins” (Eph. 2:1). If you remain spiritually dead throughout this life, even if good works are done, but nothing changes about your spiritual deadness—then you will go through the second death and be thrown into the lake of fire. We must be born again (John 3:3; Titus 3:5). God must do a supernatural work in you—replacing your heart with a new one, giving you a desire for Him, and breathing into you spiritual life.

I’ve heard many well-meaning evangelists and preachers use this illustration before: “Salvation happens like this: You are struggling at the top of an ocean, wanting to be rescued, and then God throws you a lifesaver and you grab onto it.” But that is a fatal misrepresentation! You have already sunk to the bottom of the ocean, and drowned to death—and God must reach down, pull you out of the water, perform spiritual CPR on you and breathe new life into you. You were dead in sins. You cannot be saved by works because you’re still in a state of spiritual deadness.

On January 1985, there was a large, unmarked and unclaimed suitcase discovered at the customs office at the Los Angeles International Airport. When U. S. Customs agents opened the suitcase, they found the curled-up body of an unidentified young woman. She had been dead for a few days, and as the investigation continued, it was learned that she was the wife of a young Iranian man living in the US. She was unable to obtain a visa to enter the US and join her husband so she took matters into her own hands and tried to smuggle herself into the country. The officials were surprised that an attempt like this could ever succeed. She tried to get in, but it was not only foolish, but fatal.

And if, by good works, we try to get in to heaven our own way, it will prove not only foolish but fatal—with unquenchable fire waiting at the doorstep of our eternity. As a Christian, rest in the cross, your case is settled. Depend on Christ—that gives you true freedom (Gal. 5:1); because you fail too often to depend on your own “goodness” (which is no goodness at all; Rom. 7:18; 14:23). If you are a non-believer, you need to make things right with God—works will never get you to Him. Depend completely on Christ.

III. Jesus’ Dreadful Declaration (v. 23)

These false believers professed Christ, on the Day of Judgment they defend themselves, and then in response to their confession, Jesus confesses something to them: “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23).

Jesus reveals to them what the fundamental problem was: “I never knew you.” Wait a minute. Doesn’t God know everything? Of course He does. He’s omniscient. The key to understanding what Jesus is saying here comes from the Greek word for “know.” It’s ginosko, and it’s used here to describe an intimate knowledge—a relationship knowledge—similar to the intimacy between a husband and wife. . . And Jesus is saying that’s what their problem was—there was never a personal relationship. They never knew Jesus as their Savior, so He never knew them as His child—God knows who are His: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”” (2 Tim. 2:19).

They were committed to the power Jesus represented and the status they thought they had, but they had never allowed the will of God and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to control their actions.

Jesus also says to them, “depart from me.” These are the words no one wants to hear from Christ—but by this time, at the day of judgment—it’s too late. This is the final destination of those who are not truly saved—eternal departure from the presence of God. The tragic part about it is not that they are surprised about this judgment, the tragic part is not that they cannot see their Christian friends in heaven, the tragic part is not even that they cannot go to heaven—the tragic part is that they will be separated from God forever.

Jesus tells them their fundamental problem, they never knew Him in a personal relationship. He tells them to get away from Him. Third, He calls them “workers of lawlessness.” They thought they were workers of righteousness by their deeds, but in reality they were workers of lawlessness because their deeds apart from spiritual transformation are of no value, and God takes no delight in them if inner faith is missing. Outward acts of righteousness without inner faith is an abomination to the Lord. In Isaiah this is depicted vividly: “Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me . . .” (Isaiah 1:13).

These who simply profess faith are those described by Jesus in Matthew 15:8, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” They are those who enter through the wide and broad gate that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14); They are those who bear bad fruit (Matt. 7:15-20); They are those who built their house on the sand because they didn’t heed the words of Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27). They are those described by Paul, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work” (Titus 1:16). They are those who need Christ to save them through a personal relationship. Is that you today? Do you know Jesus? There’s a difference between knowing about Him and knowing Him. He wants to have a personal relationship with you, He wants to forgive your sin—just repent and trust the Savior.

Conclusion: Charles Waterman

We’ve seen today that there are those who simply profess faith, but will be surprised to find that their works were not enough for salvation—they will on the Day of Judgment finally be separated from God’s eternal presence. The good news is that God saves those who come to Him in repentance and faith—there is hope! God knows your past, He knows what you’ve done, and He is willing to forgive if you’re willing to come to Him. Is God drawing you to come to Him?

From a home with one brother and one sister, Charles Waterman’s urge was to see the country. This took him to hitchhiking on the railroad to California. He was influenced by the worldly crowd and gave himself to become an alcoholic. Even as such, he worked his way up to become an engineer on the steam locomotive. He married Anna, who had a Christian background and did what she could to keep the testimony before him. Anna was discouraged at the path her husband followed because it was causing him to miss work on some of his hangovers. So she asked a lady in her town in California to meet with her and help her pray for Charles to be saved. His wild life went on for three or more years and one night he became frightened while under the influence and when he finally arrived at home, he told Anna he wanted to be saved. She immediately called her friend who came over to their home and they led him to the Lord. He begged the Lord for forgiveness and to clean up his life, which the Lord did.

The happiness that followed caused Anna to write the song Yes, I Know! with these words:

“Come, ye sinners, lost and hopeless,

Jesus’ blood can make you free;

For He saved the worst among you,

When He saved a wretch like me.

And I know, yes, I know

Jesus’ blood can make the vilest sinner clean.” ²

Do you know Christ today? Are you depending on your own goodness and works? Are you fully trusting in His grace this hour? Come to Christ, and He will not turn you away.


 

1. NBC News, Ebola Death Toll Rises to 4,033
2. Hymntime, Yes, I Know! 

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” Mean (Matt. 5:3)?

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed are the Poor in Spirit” Mean (Matt. 5:3)?

Jesus says in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The word “poor” here is from a Greek verb ptochos meaning “to shrink, cower, or cringe,” as beggars often did in that day. Classical Greek used the word to refer to a person reduced to total destitution, who crouched in a corner begging. As he held our one hand for alms he often hid his face with the other hand, because he was ashamed of being recognized. The term did not mean simply poor, but begging poor. Jesus is speaking here of spiritual poverty. To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God.

The Scriptures have much to say about our spiritual poorness apart from God. Just to name a few, Romans says that we are haters of God (Rom. 1:30), not seeking Him or doing any good (Rom. 3:11). The prophet Ezekiel says that the “soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20, KJV). If that’s the case (Rom. 6:23), then who has sinned? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Ephesians probably describes our depravity with the most vivid picture: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Further, Paul describes there that we walked with the world, followed Satan, and were “sons of disobedience” (2:2); that we lived in the passions of our sinful flesh, and were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:3). Similarly in Colossians, we were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). This is only a brief examination of our spiritual poverty apart from God, and being “poor in spirit” is to see oneself as one really is: lost, hopeless, helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually destitute, no matter what his education, wealth, social status, accomplishments, or spiritual knowledge.

That is the point of the first Beatitude. The poor in spirit are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and their complete dependence on God. They perceive that there are no saving resources in themselves and that they can only beg for mercy and grace. They know they have no spiritual merit, and they know they can earn no spiritual reward.

Similarly, Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gather to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Jesus says that “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:10-13). The Pharisee was listing his spiritual accomplishments, and considered himself to be self-righteous, while the tax-collector would not even lift his eyes to heaven! The Pharisee was proud in spirit; the tax-collector was poor in spirit.

Who are you like most in this story? The proud, self-reliant Pharisee or the humble tax-collector?

For further reading, please consult Sermon on the Mount: The Poor in Spirit

Sermon on the Mount: The Poor in Spirit

Sermon on the Mount: The Poor in Spirit (Matt. 5:3)

What’s your idea of happiness? What things make you the most happy? For you it might be time with family, being successful at work, watching Captain America with your girlfriend, or playing football with your buddies. Because we’re all different, there are different things that make us happy. For me, I am happy when I get new books, have good theological discussions, or write college papers on systematic theology (I know, I am a nerd).

But let me just say from the beginning: Jesus’ idea of happiness is a lot farther from ours than we’d like to think. The beginning of the Sermon on the Mount is a section known as the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:2-12). In them, Jesus describes true happiness on His terms. He presents the possibility of people being genuinely happy, but the conditions and their corresponding blessings do not seem to match. He says that the humble will be saved, the sad will be comforted, the gentle will inherit the earth, and the like. By normal human standards, things such as these are not the stuff of which happiness is made. “The world says, “Happy are the rich, the noble, the successful, the macho, the glamorous, the popular, the famous, the aggressive”—John MacArthur (1). But the message from Jesus is just the opposite because His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). And so the first description of true happiness in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is all about humility.

The Text: Matt. 5:1-3

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The Meaning of Poor in Spirit

The word “poor” here is from a Greek verb ptochos meaning “to shrink, cower, or cringe,” as beggars often did in that day. Classical Greek used the word to refer to a person reduced to total destitution, who crouched in a corner begging. As he held our one hand for alms he often hid his face with the other hand, because he was ashamed of being recognized. The term did not mean simply poor, but begging poor. Jesus is speaking here of spiritual poverty. To be poor in spirit is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God.

What is Our Spiritual Poverty Apart From God?

The Scriptures have much to say about our spiritual poorness apart from God. Just to name a few, Romans says that we are haters of God (Rom. 1:30), not seeking Him or doing any good (Rom. 3:11). The prophet Ezekiel says that the “soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20, KJV). If that’s the case (Rom. 6:23), then who has sinned? “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Ephesians probably describes our depravity with the most vivid picture: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Further, Paul describes there that we walked with the world, followed Satan, and were “sons of disobedience” (2:2); that we lived in the passions of our sinful flesh, and were “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (2:3). Similarly in Colossians, we were “alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds” (Col. 1:21). This is only a brief examination of our spiritual poverty apart from God, and being “poor in spirit” is to see oneself as one really is: lost, hopeless, helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ, every person is spiritually destitute, no matter what his education, wealth, social status, accomplishments, or spiritual knowledge.

That is the point of the first Beatitude. The poor in spirit are those who recognize their spiritual poverty and their complete dependence on God. They perceive that there are no saving resources in themselves and that they can only beg for mercy and grace. They know they have no spiritual merit, and they know they can earn no spiritual reward.

Proud or Poor?

Jesus told the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gather to “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Jesus says that “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:10-13). The Pharisee was listing his spiritual accomplishments, and considered himself to be self-righteous, while the tax-collector would not even lift his eyes to heaven! The Pharisee was proud in spirit; the tax-collector was poor in spirit.

Who are you like most in this story? The proud, self-reliant Pharisee or the humble tax-collector?

Why is Poor in Spirit First?

Why do you suppose that humility is first in the Beatitudes? The Beatitudes are not haphazardly presented. Jesus didn’t just say what Christian characteristics He could remember like “Oh yes, and being pure in heart is also important.” They are in obvious order. Each one suggests the next, and leads to the next. That is why poor in spirit/humility is first. It is the basic element in becoming a Christian. Until a soul is humbled, until we truly realize who we are without Christ, we will not recognize our need for Christ. “The door into His kingdom is low, and no one who stands tall will ever go through it”—John MacArthur (2). Being poor in spirit is the first Beatitude because humility must precede everything else. No one can receive the kingdom until he recognizes that he is unworthy of the kingdom. James 4:6 says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Where self is exalted, Christ cannot be. Where self is king, Christ cannot be. Until the proud in spirit become the “poor in spirit,” they cannot receive the King or the kingdom.

How to Achieve Being Poor in Spirit

How then, do we become poor in spirit? First of all (with respect to salvation), it cannot start with us. It isn’t something we can accomplish in our own power. We are already down; humility simply recognizes this truth. The fulfillment of that recognition depends on God’s saving work at conversion. We are so corrupted by sin that we will never recognize our lowliness and depravity apart from the grace of God. That is why salvation “depends not on human will or exertion (physical or mental effort), but on God, who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16). Humility (being poor in spirit) is not a necessary human work to make us worthy, but a necessary divine work to make us see that we are unworthy and cannot change our condition without God.

But with respect to our Christian lives, we need to strive to attain humility (again, this too is not apart from the grace of God):

The first step in experiencing humility is to turn our eyes off ourselves and look to God. When we study God’s Word, seek His face in prayer, and sincerely desire to be near Him and please Him, we move toward being “poor in spirit.” It is the vision of a holy God in all His greatness, splendor, majesty, and perfection that allows us to see ourselves as sinners by contrast. 

Second, we must starve the flesh by removing the things on which it feeds. You’ve probably heard it said before, “What you feed will live; what you starve will die.” And that is what we must do with our flesh. “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).

Third, we must continually ask God for it. With David we should pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Also, as with every good thing, God is more than willing to give than we are to ask for it, and He stands ready to give it.

The Result of Being Poor in Spirit

What does Jesus say is the result of those who are poor in spirit? “For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Those who come to the King in this humility inherit His kingdom. Those who come to the Lord with broken hearts do not leave with broken hearts: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). In giving up their own kingdom, the poor in spirit inherit God’s. Are you poor in spirit? If not, why not?


1. John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7/ John MacArthur (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1985), 145.
2. John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7/ John MacArthur . (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1985), 148.

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn” Mean (Matt. 5:4)?

You’ve Got Questions: What Does “Blessed Are Those Who Mourn” Mean (Matt. 5:4)?

While God cares about all legitimate mourning, Jesus is speaking here about godly sorrow, godly mourning, mourning that only those who sincerely desire to belong to Him or who already belong to Him can experience.

Paul speaks of this sorrow in 2 Corinthians 7, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you” (vv. 10-11). Paul says here that godly sorrow actually leads to repentance. If you are sorry for your sin, then you will repent and turn away from it. But repentance is not just a turning away from sin; it is a turning to as well. . . a turning to God. That’s why Paul says that it “leads to salvation without regret” (v. 10). But sorrow because you “couldn’t” sin is the “worldly grief [that leads to] produces death.” If you are experiencing that kind of sorrow, if truths like “Being a believer is not a license to sin” turns you off, then you are having improper mourning.

Now the first Beatitude, makes it clear that entrance into the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3) begins with being “poor in spirit” (Matt. 5:3), that is, you recognize your total spiritual bankruptcy and come to Christ empty-handed, pleading for God’s grace and mercy. Without that recognition of spiritual poverty, you cannot be saved. So if we are “poor in spirit,” then it follows that we would also become “those who mourn.”

It’s important to note, however, that blessedness or happiness does not come in the mourning itself (“Blessed are those who mourn. . .”). But that blessedness comes with what God does in response to it, with the forgiveness that He brings. When you finally recognize your sin and mourn over it and get it confessed to God, you can identify with David in Psalm 32, “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (vv. 1-2). But why does David say that those people are blessed? How did they become blessed? He answers that question in vv. 3-5, “For when I kept silent [about my sin], my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long [he experienced sorrow]. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” God forgives those who confess their sins to Him (1 John 1:9) and brings eternal comfort to them, and that’s where the blessedness of godly mourning comes from: “they shall be comforted” (Matt. 5:4).

The troubles and sins of the world are just too heavy to continue carrying. “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag, and smile, smile, smile.” But Jesus isn’t telling us to do that. He’s not telling us to fake it. He says, “Confess your sins, and mourn, mourn, mourn.” Because until sin is confessed, forgiven and removed, you cannot experience true happiness.

There is an interesting passage of Scripture about this reality. It’s found in James 4, and it is strange because the same passage that talks about forsaking sins and crying for them is the same passage that talks about being joyful and exalted. “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:8-10). James says here that there is a great need in the church to cry instead of laugh. He doesn’t mean that Christians are to be sobbing depressive Eeyores (off Winnie the Pooh). But apparently these believers were treating sin very casually when the proper reaction to sin is “mourning. . . weep[ing]. . and gloom” (v. 9).

God brings eternal comfort to the one who mourns over sin and repents. That’s the meaning of “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

For further reading, please consult Sermon on the Mount: Those Who Mourn

You’ve Got Questions: What Happens to Someone Who Never Hears of Jesus?

You’ve Got Questions: What Happens to Someone Who Never Hears of Jesus?

The Bible teaches that people can only experience God’s salvation through Jesus Christ: “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Bible also teaches that everlasting judgment awaits those who reject Christ: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). But what about the people who have never heard the gospel? Are they without hope? Will God judge them anyway? Some people suggest that those who never hear the gospel might still receive salvation if they respond to God’s ‘spiritual light’ in nature. That since God has revealed Himself through creation (Rom. 1:19-20), people who never hear the gospel can still be saved because there is evidence of God in creation. While it is true that God has revealed Himself generally through creation, the Bible gives no indication whatsoever that creation is of salvific value to sinners. The Bible gives no indication of any other way of salvation but through Jesus Christ. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). But if we are going to answer this question, we need to keep three points in mind:

Salvation by works is impossible. If we can earn our salvation, then Christ did not need to die (Gal. 2:21; 3:21).

God has indeed revealed His power and being through the beauty and order of creation. However, people suppress that truth and choose sin instead (Rom. 1:18-23). All of mankind, whether they be in North America or some undiscovered tribe, have a sense of what God requires and a knowledge of God (Rom. 2:14-15). So the problem is that they have rejected the knowledge of God that they already have, not that they have no knowledge of God at all.

The Scriptures assert that Christ is the only way to God and salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), and that rejection of God is to subject yourself under God’s divine curse and wrath (John 3:36; 1 Cor. 16:22).

Our concern for the lost should drive us to reach the unreached with the message of the gospel. Rather than dwelling on “what ifs,” let’s get busy!

Finally, we are not ultimately in a position to judge God’s actions as fair or unfair. Some think it is unfair to express judgment on sinners who have never heard of Jesus. What’s more, some people would consider it unfair that they were “force-fed” Christianity their whole lives, while others could say it was “unfair” to hear the gospel from Christians who tainted the message by being abusive or hypocritical. In other words, even those who hear about Jesus may hypothetically complain that they didn’t have a fair chance! In the end, however, we know that God is just and that no sinner will be able to honestly protest to God that he wanted to know Him but was not allowed.

 

No Other Gospel

The following message was delivered at Ohio Valley Baptist Church on March 16th, 2014:

Introduction

We are going to look at Paul’s letter to the Galatians this morning and how Paul felt about the problems that they were facing. Galatians was one of the problem churches of the New Testament. They had been born out of Paul’s missionary efforts and had become a church—but a crisis has hit this church of Galatia. It’s important that we read about the crisis that hit their church because there isn’t anything that makes us any different from them today. So let’s get into this text.

The Text

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. 10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Something’s Missing

Do you see what is missing here? Not that the Scriptures are inefficient and lacking, but there is something missing here that is usually found in Paul’s letters. Let’s take a look at all of Paul’s letters to the churches of the NT and see if you can find out what is missing here in his letter to the Galatians:

To the Romans: “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world” (Rom. 1:8).

To the Corinthians: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4).

To the Ephesians: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Eph. 1:16).

To the Philippians: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).

To the Colossians: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you” (Col. 1:3).

To the Thessalonians: The first letter, “We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Thess. 1:2). The second letter, “We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing” (2 Thess. 1:3).

As soon as we read the first few verses here, we notice that there is no thanksgiving. Of course I don’t mean the holiday, Thanksgiving, but there is no expression of thankfulness for these Galatians like there is in the rest of Paul’s letters to the churches. Paul expresses his thanksgiving to all the churches to whom he has written, except for the Galatians.

But not so with these Galatians. Paul doesn’t waste any time addressing the problem and says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (1:6).

It is Astonishing to Turn Away From the Gospel

First Paul tells his Galatian readers, “I am astonished.” This is his expression—and it wasn’t a good astonishment either. It was astonishing to Paul that these believers were turning away from the gospel. The idea here is that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel!

The gospel isn’t a genre of music, it’s not a lofty idea in literature, it’s not something that only theologians argue about, folks the gospel is the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel is the greatest thing that God could ever offer you—and to turn away from it is astonishing.

The gospel is what reconciles us to a God whom we have offended (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). The gospel not only individually transforms, but it corporately unites (Rom. 15:6; Eph. 2:14-18) . The gospel is received by individuals but the gospel grafts you into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 4:16). The gospel is how you are made right in God’s sight (Rom. 5:1, 8:30; Gal. 2:16-17, 3:24; Titus 3:7). The gospel is how the wrath of God was absorbed for you (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2). The gospel is how you are free to serve God (Gal. 5:1; 1 Peter 2:16). The gospel is what sets you free from the power of sin and death (John 8:36; Rom. 6:7, 8:2). The gospel is what’s worth living and dying for (Phil. 1:21).

The Gospel Brings You to God

The gospel is what brings you to God. You see, God is the ultimate goal. You see, everything that the gospel accomplishes is really to remove the obstacles that are blocking your way to God. Through the gospel, the obstacles are moved out of the way so you can get to God. In justification—sin is out of the way and only Christ’s righteousness is seen (2 Cor. 5:21). In substitutionary atonement—the debt is paid—here’s the warrant for your rightful arrest and it has listed on it “The soul that sinneth shall surely die” but instead of us paying for it, God nails that warrant through the hands of His Son, thus canceling the debt against you (the debt is out of the way). (1 Peter 3:18)
In redemption, God purchases you for Himself. You are His possession. “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20) In setting you free from sin, you are free to serve God—enabled to serve and honor Him (John 8:36). In giving you eternal life, you will be in a place where you will never depart from God’s presence (Revelation 5:9-13).

All that God does is in the gospel is to bring you to Himself. He is the ultimate, final, highest and greatest gift of the gospel. And to turn away from this gospel? That’s absurd! Yet people are doing it every day. The world counts the gospel as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18), as folly. And apart from the grace of God leading you to faith, you will naturally hate the things of God. So you will naturally turn away from the gospel if you aren’t redeemed.

It is true that people are turning away from the gospel and this is a most astonishing thing, but are we living our lives in such away that demonstrates the worth of the gospel so that people will see what a mistake it is to turn away from the best thing God could ever offer you? Let’s make sure we are demonstrating to the world the worth of the gospel by our lives being transformed.

Turning Away Can Be a Christian Problem

Paul says here that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel, but he also says more about the problems for these Galatians: “. . . you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel” (v. 6b). It’s also interesting to note here that Paul says they were quickly deserting Christ and His gospel. This means that not much time has passed since the Galatians had believed in the gospel. Not much time had passed since their conversion, and now they are quickly deserting Christ and His message. More specifically, they were deserting “him who called you in the grace of Christ.” They are not just turning from a doctrine or a teaching. But if they were “called [into] the grace of Christ,” then this indicates that these Galatians were believers.

If they weren’t Paul would not have said that they were “called [into] the grace of Christ.” Because that’s how salvation happens for people. God calls you to repentance and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ—and everything, everything, about salvation is dependent on the grace of God. So this problem of deserting the gospel and turning to a different gospel can be a Christian problem. Nothing has happened that makes them any different from us today. What was the “different gospel” that they were turning to? The teaching of justification by works.

Undermining Justification

We as Christians are suspect to fall prey to “quickly deserting” Jesus Christ and the message of justification by faith just like these Galatians. If the Galatians were, why wouldn’t we be? Their reason for quickly deserting Christ was that there were some who troubled them. It was people who were within the church. They weren’t being infiltrated by some religion in a distant land. They were being deceived by those called themselves Christian “brothers” (Gal. 2:4). They were Judaizers who were within the church trying to teach that justification is by works—in this case, keeping the law. Paul reveals throughout this letter that this is what the Judaizers were trying to teach.

Today we are not likely to hear a church member say that Jesus is not the only way to heaven. Something like that should easily turn on a red light for us, but we do have an epidemic in the church today. Many of us become Christians and then we fall into this “do-it-yourself” mentality. We believe that God gives us grace to be saved, but after we are saved, we fall into a type of thinking where we actually believe that we must do more service to gain more of God’s approval. For some reason, we start to believe that God’s approval and acceptance of us.

This was exactly the problem for the Galatians.

But according to the gospel, there is nothing you could ever do to gain more approval in God’s sight. Nothing. God’s approval and acceptance of you is totally and completely based on the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. His work specifically of justification. Justification is the brightest facet on the gospel diamond.

What happens in justification?

1) Christ takes your sin, like making it His own—charging it to His own account, though He never sinned. That way, in God’s sight it is as though you had never sinned to begin with.

2) But the other side of that coin is that God credits Christ’s righteousness to your account. Christ takes your sin and in exchange gives you His righteousness. That is how we are accepted and approved of in God’s sight. Oh God wants that for us! “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

You can do nothing to add onto that. You can do nothing to take away from that. What about if you gave away all your money to the poor? Wouldn’t that make Him love you a little bit more? Absolutely not. What if you went to live on the foreign mission field with another people group, a different language, and stripped away from your family? Absolutely not. What if you went one full-week without a single, lustful thought? Absolutely not! God’s approval is based on this: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). And Romans makes this truth explode with brilliance: “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

In Christ, there is nothing you can do that would make God love you any more than He already does. He loves you because He loves you. And in Christ, there is nothing you have done that makes Him love you any less.

Do not fall into the mindset of “works-righteousness.” Embrace the gospel’s truth of justification by faith. You will wear yourself out trying to gain more of God’s acceptance. In fact, the Scriptures say that you will become a slave to “works-righteousness” if you think that obedience is earning God’s approval: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

What should be the driving force behind obedience to God then? We are seeking to please Him every day. We are seeking to be more obedient today than we were yesterday. But we should be seeking to be obedient to God because we want to. The proper response to receiving this “so great salvation” (Heb. 2:3) is joyful sacrifice to Him regardless of the cost. Christ paid the greatest cost at Calvary, and we will want to joyfully give our lives in service to Him because He is worth losing everything and anything for.

Make sure you check your motive for obedience to God. Are you motivated by thinking that God will approve of you more? Or are you motivated because you want to make much of Him in every part of your lives? Are you motivated to serve God because you want to see Him glorified, magnified, and lifted up? Are you motivated to serve God because you want people’s attention to be drawn to Him?

No Other Gospel

We have seen that it is astonishing to turn away from the gospel, and that we as believers today are easily subject to fall into the mentality of “works-righteousness” but that we must not, for that is not the gospel at all. Paul continues his argument here and defends the gospel by saying: “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 7).

In this verse, Paul says that what they were turning to was not really the gospel at all. He refuses to recognize this heresy as a “gospel.” This “different gospel” was the product of “some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul states the truth that there is no other gospel. And there isn’t.

There is no other message on the face of the planet that teaches that God completely forgives sin based on the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. There is not another message in this world that has endured the test of time, death, persecution, and struggle. The message of the gospel is the final triumphant message in the world—and there is no other gospel. There is no other good news like this good news.

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus Christ is the only way to God. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He is not a way. He is not a good way. He is not one out of many ways. He is the way. And there is no other way that you could ever reach God by your own efforts, by your own works, by your own good intentions. The only way that you could ever get to God is through Jesus Christ. There is no other gospel. No other way.

This is quite contrary to the belief today that there are many ways to God. I read in a story once that there were these two religious leaders talking about their religions. One of them was a Buddhist religious leader. The other was a Muslim religious leader. And they said, “You know, when it comes right down to it, our religions aren’t really that different. Some minor details at the most are what make us different. Really we are trying to reach God at the top of a mountain but we are going up that mountain different ways.”

Folks, the message of the gospel is that God came down from that mountain to meet sinners like you and I. We do not climb a mountain different ways to get to the same God. The foundational, life-transforming message of Christianity is that God came to you. Because you couldn’t come to Him. The Bible says that we are born haters of God (Rom. 1:30), sinners by nature and dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:3), enemies of God (Rom. 5:10), not seeking Him (Rom. 3:11). There is no way on earth we could ever get to God on our own. But thank God Jesus paid a debt that we couldn’t pay! He lived the life we could never live! And He died in our place, He paid for our sins, He bought us with a price, He justified us in God’s sight, and He absorbed the wrath of God that we deserved.

Imagine it this way: If you and I were standing about a hundred yards away from a dam of water that was ten thousand miles high and ten thousand miles wide. All of the sudden that dam was broken and a surging flood of water comes crashing down at us. But right before it reaches us, the ground in front of us opens up and swallows it all. Folks, at the cross, Christ drank the full cup of God’s wrath, and when He downed the last drop, he cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). All who turn away from sin and have faith in Jesus Christ have can have their sins totally forgiven though this gospel.

Some Who Trouble You

But again, the problem was from those who wanted to distort the gospel of Christ. And there are many today who are deceived by “every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). Don’t think that you are immune to being easily deceived folks, the Bible says that the devil can even disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

But how will we protect ourselves against “different gospel[s]” as Paul says here if we barely spend time in the Bible? Folks, if Sunday morning and possibly Sunday night is the only time you get a feeding of the Word of God, then you are as vulnerable to false gospels as a baby lamb is to a roaring, hungry lion.

If you are not arming yourself with the Bible, meditating on the Bible, memorizing the Bible, studying the Bible, reading the Bible, then you will be “tossed about like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind” (James 1:16). Often times, when we have revivals we get our hearts set on fire for Christ and have a rekindled passion for the word of God. But if we we’re growing in our maturity and knowledge of God’s Word like we should be, then we wouldn’t have to depend on events like these to get revived!

These events are great, but we need to realize that clear knowledge of God is the kindling that sustains fires of affection for God. Theology matters. The study of God matters. Because if you have a low view of God, then your worship of Him will be low. But if you have a high view of God, then your worship of Him will be high. We need to strive for maturity in our faith—and study God’s Word to defend ourselves against what is not true or right.

For years people have tried to cheat the US Treasury Dept. by producing fake bills and attempting to duplicate currency. But you know how the US Treasury Dept. recognizes counterfeit bills? They know the real thing. And we will be utterly defenseless against heresies and false teachings if we do not know the real thing—the Word of God.

Will you take the time to arm yourself with the Word of God? Will you take the time necessary to read, study, and memorize the Word of God in order to recognize “different gospels?” Dive into Bible study and trust that God will help you discern what is right and what is wrong. Just plunge into Bible study on faith.

The Anathema

Paul has expressed that he is astonished that these Galatians are so quickly deserting the gospel. Then he defends the fact that there is not another gospel, but the problem is with “some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (v. 7), now Paul reinforces his argument by saying: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (vv. 8-9).

Paul says that “even if we” meaning himself and his missionaries, preach a different gospel, let him be accursed. What was the gospel that Paul and his missionaries preached? The gospel of justification by faith. This is clear throughout this letter. In fact, a theme verse to sum up Paul’s argument is Galatians 2:16: “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”

It’s interesting that Paul uses himself and his missionaries as an example here. “Even if we. .” Paul extended that curse to himself and his missionaries if they had preached a different gospel. That means that his message must never change or deviate—because the truth of the gospel never changes. There is nothing you can add to it, nothing you can take away from it.

Paul says that anyone, even an angel, that preaches a gospel contrary to justification by faith, is to be accursed. Paul doesn’t mean “let that person be excommunicated,” like if someone is preaching to you a different gospel, kick him out of your church. It can’t mean that. Paul says that “even if an angel” preaches a contrary gospel, let him be accursed. Angels can’t be excommunicated from a local body. The phrase means “let him be delivered up to the wrath of God.”

Why? Because to preach a different gospel meant to reject the gospel—and if you reject the gospel you bring God’s curse upon yourself. Don’t read over these verses and yawn and then turn the page. What these Judaizers were doing was forthright damnable. If they taught that keeping requirements and keeping laws was the way to be justified in God’s sight, that justification is not based on the finished and final sacrifice of Christ on the cross and you must receive that justification by faith. . . then they were:

1) Presenting a “road of salvation” that actually leads to death. Because no man will be justified in God’s sight by works. Paul says elsewhere in this letter “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Gal. 5:4).

2) Denying the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. The Old Testament Scriptures promised that the Messiah was the One through whom God’s saving purposes would be accomplished.

Paul says that if they do that they are anathema. When a person is anathema he is cut off from Christ (Rom. 9:3) and doomed to eternal punishment. Paul says that because this justification by works is the way that leads to death. The way that leads to eternal punishment—because works will never be enough to gain God. They only way to do that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

I just shriek in my heart when I see these televangelists who are preaching the prosperity message and these people are just eating it up! These false teachers are under the anathema and so are the They are “amening,” singing and dancing. And why? Because God has apparently chosen to bless you with nothing but financial wealth? I tell you what, I don’t need that folks. I’m rich enough through the gospel!

This damnation isn’t just for these false teachers described in these verses. This goes for anyone who rejects the gospel. John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” Paul even uses the same word in 1 Cor. 16:22, “If anyone does not love the Lord, let him be accursed.”

Meditate on the Horror

We need to think deeply about the horror of rejecting the gospel folks. We are too occupied with work, television, and worldly things that we hardly think about the real damnation that people will experience if they reject the gospel. We need to think about the anathema the way a child hears his first peal of thunder, or the way a child feels his first earthquake, or suffers his first storm at sea.

1) God’s wrath is real and we need to be sharing what Christ did about this wrath with everyone we meet. We need to have a real concern for them because the whole world is under God’s curse if they do not trust in Jesus Christ to be their Savior. C. H. Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

2) We need to meditate on that from which we have been saved. That if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ on the cross and God’s grace extending to us who are totally undeserving of His mercy—then we would face the full wrath of God for our sin.

Ponder these things. Allow them to humble you.

The Servant of the Gospel is Not a Servant of Man

Paul has expressed his astonishment for the Galatians giving allegiance to another gospel, which Paul says is no gospel at all. He tells them how serious it is to distort the gospel’s message. And now, Paul concludes this passage of Scripture by asking a few rhetorical questions. Questions that have obvious answers: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (v. 10).

Paul isn’t asking this question in regards to justification. Because God’s approval was already his through Jesus Christ. The reason Paul says this here is because of what he said above. He has said some things that will not win him very many friends. He says that those who preach a false gospel are accursed. Paul realized that it doesn’t please very many people to hear the pronouncement of damnation. Paul is talking this way because pleasing people (telling them what they want to hear) is much lower on his list of priorities than serving Jesus Christ.

There is too much at stake for Paul to talk lightly about this problem of swearing allegiance to something else other than the gospel—it’s a life or death situation. If the gospel is twisted then Christ’s work on the cross is dishonored. If the gospel is twisted, then the way of salvation for sinners is blocked. So, Paul must oppose the perverting of the gospel with all his might—whether it pleases people or not.

Seeking to Please God

The meaning here is not that if more people are displeased with you, then you are more spiritual. Paul’s aim was never to take people out of the equation. He didn’t want to alienate people (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 15:2). It is good to “please people” when it means that pleasing them is a means to their salvation and it builds them up in the faith for God’s glory. But when the gospel is at stake, and we are in situations where our faith could be compromised, we need to ask ourselves, “Am I now seeking to please God or man?” For Acts 5:29 says, “We must obey God rather than men.” When you are tempted to hide your faith ask yourself this question.

Paul indicates here that he lives for God and for God alone. How thrilling is that? You don’t have to worry about pleasing one person here and another person over here. You only live to please one person—God. That challenges every aspect of your life. When you live to please God, everything you do relates to pleasing Him. Should I see this movie? Read this book? Make this purchase? Take this job? Go out on this date? Marry this person? It is so freeing to know that there is one person who is to be pleased in every decision of our lives—Jesus. Sometimes pleasing Him will please others. Other times it won’t. Other times it will cost you dearly—but anything is worth losing when you know you have a God that you can never lose. A God that is infinitely worth more than anything this world affords.

Conclusion

The shining truth of this passage is that there is one, and only one gospel. It is astonishing for one to turn away from this gospel—because you are turning away from God, and away from grace in Christ. It is not only astonishing, but it is tragic, damnable, because the person who rejects the gospel is accursed and cut off from God.

But on the other hand, if you embrace the true gospel—the gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for your justification—not only are all your sins forgiven by God, but freedom will come into your life because you will live to please one person—Jesus Christ.

Jonah: Jonah’s Prayer (2:1-10)

Jonah: Jonah’s Prayer (2:1-10)

Introduction

What we are going to study tonight may be the theologically richest part of the book of Jonah. The amazing context of this poetic prayer is Jonah’s gratitude while inside the fish. He fully expected to die in the water. His thanksgiving within the belly of a fish is a proclamation of joy, with the realization that God has delivered him in spite of his running. Though he is not yet on dry land, his faith reaches a new dimension of understanding. He seems to have no doubt that, as he was delivered from drowning, he will also eventually be delivered safely to the shore. In chapter 2 of Jonah we are able to understand Jonah’s point of view, as he speaks in the first person. It also offers a window into the nature and circumstances of true gratitude.

The Text

Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, 2 saying,

“I called out to the LORD, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
3 For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
4 Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
5 The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
6 at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O LORD my God.
7 When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the LORD,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
8 Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
9 But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

10 And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Inside the Fish

“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish” (v. 1). The author tells us in the first verse what we are about to read. There is a prayer that follows. And Jonah prayed these things while he was in the belly of the fish. We know that this account is still a miracle—but it is interesting that Jonah actually prays while inside the fish. It’s important to notice here that his is the first time that Jonah speaks directly to God. In all this account and all we’ve experienced with him, he was not spoken to God until now. Remember however, Jonah is still in danger. He is still at sea, inside the fish—but still in danger. He doesn’t have a living room built inside that fish.

But here’s what he prays: “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice” (v. 2). This is the beginning of the prayer of Jonah. Jonah says that he “called out to” God out of his distress. He says that God answered him. But Jonah says something interesting here: “out of the belly of Sheol I cried.” What does Sheol mean? It’s a term used most often in the Old Testament to mean the place of death. Sometimes it means separation from God. Jonah did not literally pray from Sheol but describes his near-death experience. He says that God heard his voice.

“For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me” (v. 3). Jonah is describing his experience being thrown overboard with vivid imagery: “into the deep,” “the heart of the seas,” “your billows passed over me.” Just for clarification, billows are great waves or surging masses of water. Though it was the sailors who had hurled Jonah into the sea (1:15), he knows that God was working sovereignly through them, and so he can say that God cast him into the sea.

Jonah expresses, however that he will see dry land again: “Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple’” (v. 4). Here Jonah demonstrates his understanding of the power of simply turning again toward the presence of God. Next Jonah gives a very visual description of coming close to death. In vv. 5-6, “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my heard at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever, yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God.” He says that the waters closed in on him to take his life—he was probably drowning at this point. The deep surrounded him, and he was definitely at the bottom of the sea because he states that seaweed was “wrapped about” his head. He even went down to the “land whose bars closed upon [him] forever.” Departure into Sheol was to go through gates made of “bars.” Job 17:16 says, “Will it go down to the bars of Sheol?” (emphasis mine) See also Psalm 9:13. But regardless, God brought up Jonah’s life from the “pit.” Jonah also says that “When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple” (v. 7).

Saved but Not Completely Delivered

What is interesting to see throughout this entire account of Jonah’s prayer is this: He has been rescued from death by God’s sending of the fish (1:17), but he has not been delivered to dry land just yet (2:10). He has not drowned, but he was unexpectedly saved from death by the “great fish,” but he isn’t completely safe—he is still in danger.

Our lives are very similar to this story—our lives as believers. When we are converted, when we are saved, we are delivered from death and saved from judgment: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). But, we are not immediately taken to the place where there is no sin, no evil, no suffering, and no pain (Rev. 21:4). We are saved in this life, but we are not completely delivered from the ailments of living in this present world. You probably know all too well, that your struggles do not end once you are saved. Struggles continue. In fact, some struggles happen more often because you are saved (ex. persecution). Remember that salvation is in three tenses:

1) Past: You were saved. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Once we had repentance and faith toward Christ, we were saved. That’s a secured deal.

2) Present: You are being saved. “Therefore, by beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, emphasis mine). We are daily being delivered from the presence and power of sin through the Holy Spirit.

3) Future: You will be saved; “Training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13, emphasis mine). One glorious day we will finally be delivered from the presence and power of sin forever.

This is what we share with Jonah: We have been delivered from death and the penalty of sin, but we are not yet completely free from sin. One day we will be in complete safety (“dry land”), but until then we must do what is necessary to fight sin daily (Rom. 7).

The Real Miracle

Another thing that is interesting to note here (that we tend to look over) is that Jonah should have died. Listen again to this dreadful description of what is was like to nearly drown at sea: “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever. . .” (vv. 5-6). The real miracle here is that what should have been a place of death for Jonah became the place of deliverance and life! What does he say God did? “Yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God” (v. 6b).

Remember the “sign of Jonah” expression used by Jesus? “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Jesus used Jonah’s experience to refer to His own death. The apostle Paul states, “he was raised on the third day” (1 Cor. 15:4). But the wonder of the sign of Jesus’ death and of Jonah’s experience is that a place that ought to have been a place of death became a place of deliverance and life. What do you think of when you see a cross? Jesus death? Addition? We have beautified the cross so much that we have a tendency to forget what a cross actually was in Jesus’ day. We have jewelry, t-shirts, rings, pendants, and various things that may have crosses on them, but in Jesus’ day a cross carried a much different meaning. The crucifix was a torture device. The Romans wanted to state their authority loud and clear to criminals, so they devised this form of punishment known as crucifixion. The cross was a symbol of death—the most humiliating form of death.

But because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the cross is a symbol of victory over death and reminds us that at the cross, we were given deliverance from sin and death. So what should have been a place of death has become they symbol for the Christian faith that has stood the test of time. Christ’s descent to earth and His willing humility even to death on a cross brought redemption to all (Phil. 2:5-11).

A Strange Statement

Jonah has described his experience in his prayer to God and utters something rather abstract: “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (v. 8). It’s a true statement—but it’s strange because it has nothing to do with Jonah’s experience. Does it say anything about him drowning or struggling on the ship? No. Jonah has been describing his experience in the waters as he comes close to death—and he expresses thankfulness for God’s sending of the great fish, but here he states something like a proverb. It’s an interesting part of Jonah’s prayer because it expresses something about his relationship with God.

He was truly grateful to God for saving him through this fish. He has truly praised God for rescuing him in this miraculous way. But Jonah is here referring back again to these sailors and the Ninevites and says that “Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love” (v. 8). He doesn’t pray for them, but states this truth about them. So in the midst of Jonah’s prayer (and after all he has been through!) he is still protesting the idea that God should offer forgiveness to the Ninevites. Remember, why did Jonah run from God’s call in the first place? Because he didn’t believe that God should have compassion and forgiveness for sinners. He knew that if he preached to the Ninevites, that there could be a possibility of them repenting from sin and obtaining forgiveness from God. “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (4:2).

A Strange Struggle

He was praying, but still protesting. We like Jonah may disagree with God for different reasons—but that shouldn’t stop us from praising Him. And God doesn’t expect everyone who praises Him to always have all their questions answered or all of their doubts erased. We will always have questions—but we shouldn’t stop praising God and giving Him thanks. Satan will always use our weaknesses against us. One of our weaknesses is a limited, finite mind. Satan sees an open door there to stumble us and turn our hearts away from God. So when we have questions or doubts about God, we should read the Bible with all our might—listen where God has spoken, but restrain our curiosity beyond His Word. God knows we have struggles and difficulties understanding Him sometimes, but He still welcomes our praise even when we don’t understand or are confused. “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33).

Jonah here, gives thanks to God even when he disagrees with Him concerning the Ninevites. Why is it important to have faith in God when you don’t understand His ways, or you don’t understand your circumstances? Because we have the assurance that God is sovereign, God knows what He is doing, God wants for us what we would want for ourselves (if we had the sense enough to want it), and God calls us to trust Him because of it.

There are numerous biblical examples of this trust that God calls for. One of the greatest is found in Lamentations 3:21-24. This book is a despairing poem about the destruction of Jerusalem. In the midst of the unbearable sorrow, Jeremiah cries out, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him” (ESV). Another example is when the psalmist asks, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Ps. 13:1), but expresses in v. 5, “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”

We continue to trust God in our difficulties and in our confusions, because we know who He is. Our faith in God is not blind. We know that He is a God “who never lies” (Titus 1:2), and “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19) Therefore, when God makes a promise like “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28), we know that He means what He says.

Salvation Belongs to the LORD!

We have come to the end of Jonah’s prayer and his last statement is this: “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the LORD!” (v. 9). Jonah says that with thanksgiving he will sacrifice to God, and says that he will return to do what he originally was called to do. And he utters a statement that is absolutely foundational to the overarching message of the Bible: “Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

Do you think Jonah expected to be saved when thrown into the raging sea? Of course not. He thought he would surely die. If he didn’t he would have described his experience as going down to the land “whose bars closed upon [him] forever” (v. 6). God was at work to save Jonah even before he was fleeing from Him. Think about your own salvation. Think about that day. Did you expect to be saved? Did you expect it to happen? Did you know any point in your life prior that that day would come? Of course you didn’t. That’s what Jonah expresses here. Salvation belongs to the LORD. It is and was God’s plan, God’s work, God’s way, for God’s glory. It wasn’t your plan (Eph. 1:4), and it was not your way. Jesus’ work of salvation through His death and victory over death was even done while the world was still at odds with God. God is indeed the author of our faith, and Jonah here is a key witness. This shines light on the fact that God has been at work to save you (His enemy; Rom. 5:10) ever since before you were born. And Christ died for broken sinners long before they would ever converted. God alone is deserving of full credit for your salvation.

Conclusion

Plainly put, Jonah has looked toward God. It is enough for his deliverance. God will deal with his protest and running issues later. God answers those who call out in distress whether their issues of protest are resolved or not. He delivers those who call out in times of trouble. He accepts Jonah’s thanks and his lack of repentance because he accepts Jonah’s protest, not as sin but as a welcome dialogue. When Jonah concludes his prayer, God answers this way: “And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land” (v. 10). God has not given up on His prophet, and will continue to relentlessly pursue him.