Why the doctrine of Hell Matters

Back in 2011 Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins made the subject of hell a very popular topic (I almost used the phrase “a hot topic” but the pun was too much for me).

People were debating the subject of hell not only in churches, but in the media. The book made the relatively unknown Bell suddenly famous in a way that he hadn’t been up to that point.

Among those who take the Bible as God’s literal Word, it has made Bell infamous. He misinterpreted what the Bible says and came up with his own view in place of Christ’s.

In the book, Love Wins, he redefined hell in his own understanding. In fact, he redefined it out of existence by making it consummated in things that happen in this life.

However, Bell’s aberrant theological views in this book are not the first time he has departed from Christian orthodoxy.

He had been gradually morphing toward liberal heterodoxy for some time.

The book brought new attention to the doctrine of hell. For this attention, I suppose we should be thankful. Perhaps it will cause the true church to more clearly proclaim the biblical truth regarding this basic tenet of biblical Christianity.

In a promo video for Love Wins, Bell exposes his misunderstanding of the gospel:

There is the question behind the questions, the real question: What is God like? Because millions and millions of people were taught that the primary message—the center of the Gospel of Jesus—is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus.

And so, what gets, subtly, sort of caught and taught is that Jesus rescues you from God. But what kind of God is that; that we would need to be rescued from this God? How could that God ever be good; how could that God ever be trusted? And how could that ever be good news.”

Bell’s view of Christianity is seriously distorted to say the least. Jesus does in fact rescue believing sinners from the wrath of God which we deserve for our sin. And this most certainly is good news for those who believe.

Yet the foundational premise of Bell’s misunderstanding of the gospel is that the center of the gospel message is that God is going to send you to hell, unless you believe in Jesus.

In other words, Bell asserts that hell is the punishment for not believing in Jesus, rather than hell being the justice that our sin deserves since we are born in trespasses and sins.

Unfortunately, many Christians don’t seem to understand the gospel any better than Bell does. He’s simply amplifying what the average church-goer already thinks.

The predominant thought in the church today is the premise that from birth man is basically innocent and headed toward heaven until he willfully chooses to reject Christ as his Savior. At that point, his destiny shifts from heaven-bound to hell-bound.

But this premise completely misses the point of the gospel and our falleness from conception. There’s a subtle twist in the way Satan and his messengers distort God’s truth to make God look unrighteous.

People don’t go to hell simply because they reject faith in Christ, although, that’s certainly the reason that they don’t go to heaven.

The fundamental reason any person goes to hell is because of their own unforgiven sin. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

Because of our birth in Adam’s fallenness, we were already headed to hell, already dead in trespasses and sins, already separated from God and without hope.

The reason Christians don’t go to hell is because God in His infinite mercy and grace rescues us from our natural orientation.

However, apart from the gift of faith in Christ’s gospel, we all would have gone to hell for our own sins, whether we had openly rejected the gospel or never heard it in the first place.

Justice is where unrighteous people get exactly what they deserve in hell.

Grace is where unrighteous people get precisely what they do not deserve in heaven: cleansing, forgiveness, mercy, imputed righteousness from Christ, and all the inheritance of Christ. This is amazing grace!

Keep in mind, Bell has frequently taught an unbiblical view of hell—one in which hell is not a literal place where sinners are justly punished, but more of a self-induced state of mind pertaining mainly to this life. In an interview in 2007, he said:

“I don’t know why as a Christian you would have to make such declarative statements. [Why would you] want there to be a literal hell? I am a bit skeptical of somebody who argues that passionately for a literal hell, why would you be on that side?

Like if you are going to pick causes, if you’re literally going to say these are the lines in the sand, I’ve got to know that people are going to burn forever, this is one of the things that you drive your stake in the ground on. I don’t understand that.” [Rob Bell, Ooze Interview (July 2007)].

For the Christian, beliefs begin with the truth that God has revealed in the Bible; beliefs don’t begin with what I may want to be true or not. We don’t get a vote on the moral laws (or physical laws!) that govern the universe.

I believe in a literal place of eternal conscious torment for unforgiven sinners because this is revealed by God in Scripture. My desires or personal wishes have no bearing on the truthfulness of any doctrine.

As a Christian who believes what God has revealed in Scripture, I believe all kinds of doctrines that are out of sorts with public opinion.

Almost everything I affirm as a Christian will put me at odds with one group or another and be deemed unpopular in the marketplace of ideas.

We can’t base our beliefs on how it will “play in the press.” The content of our preaching cannot be based on, “What do people want to hear?” Christians are under orders to proclaim God’s message to His people in the church and broadly to the world at large.

Rob Bell approaches Christian doctrines as one might go through a cafeteria line, picking those he finds appealing or tolerable and rejecting others for which he has no taste or desire.

We should pray for the church to have discernment regarding the subject of hell. People need to believe what God has revealed in Scripture and be changed to see God’s truth as both objective and knowable through His written Word, the Bible.

Love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin


On Being Quick to Hear God’s Word

In the previous blog, I provided an overview of how Christians are to receive God’s written word. This has to do with our attitudes toward the Bible. In this post, I want to say a word about hearing and listening.

In James 1:19, we find that believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be quick to hear (1:19a).

In the ESV, the opening phrase is rendered, “know this.” In the NIV it says, “take note of this.” In the NASB it’s translated, “This you know.”

James is using an imperative statement. The imperative is like a verbal highlighter that underscores what the writer is about to say. James grabs the reader’s attention in such a way that it requires action on our part.

He says, “know this…” because there were and are Christians who don’t know how to receive God’s Word profitably. This is something every Christian needs to hear.

James loves these Christians. He calls them “my beloved brothers.” He isn’t writing in anger, but he’s pleading, he’s urging like a concerned father for their progress in the faith.

There are spiritual dangers James urges believers to avoid. These instructions relate to receiving God’s Word, both publicly and privately.

The first key to receiving God’s Word (in verse 19) is the determination to be “quick to hear.” The idea behind this phrase is that of an eagerness to learn.

When we read the Bible for personal study, “quick to hear” describes how our heart should be toward God’s Word. In the private setting, we hear with our eyes as we read the Bible. Hearing can be active or passive. Passive hearing is when you’re not trying.

Every day, I passively hear train whistles in the background, especially at night. At home, I passively hear dogs bark. I don’t try to hear these sounds, but I do. But James is calling for active hearing… where we strive to hear with an eager heart.

Likewise, when I listen to a sermon, “quick to hear” means my heart is prepared to listen, my mind is awake and fully engaged, but not to criticize or to pass judgment on the text, but to receive instruction as the Spirit applies the truth to my own life.

This attitude presupposes the desire to be taught. Sir Winston Churchill revealed something about himself when he confessed, “I am always willing to learn, although I’m not always willing to be taught.” Many of us can relate to that sentiment.

There is wisdom in knowing that we need to be taught. Learning requires a high degree of listening (or taking knowledge in rather than putting information out) where talking is restrained on the part of the learner, except in interactive contexts, and only then when it’s absolutely necessary to facilitate learning.

I remember in seminary, Dr. Howard Hendricks said, “When I was a boy, my father taught me to take every opportunity to stand in the presence of wise men and to always keep my mouth shut except to ask a perceptive question.”

In Proverbs 10:19 Solomon wrote, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”

The ability to keep silent is a prerequisite to learning. The more proud and foolish a person is, the less willing they are to retrain their lips and listen to others.

In a book published back in 1970, Dr. Paul Tournier wrote: “Listen to the conversations of our world, between nations as well as between couples. They are, for the most part,dialogues of the deaf.” That’s a description of people who are “hard of listening.”

Why is listening – being quick to hear – so important to receiving God’s Word?

When James wrote these words to the dispersed Jewish believers throughout the Roman Empire, apart from the OT, there were no canonical Scriptures for the New Testament at this early date in the church’s infancy. James was first in terms of writing.

The epistles hadn’t been written yet and even the gospels hadn’t been written yet. Therefore, all instruction in the gospel of Christ and in doctrine was oral as believers met from house to house. They met to listen to the apostles’ teaching conveyed orally.

Listening became a matter of spiritual life or death. Those who didn’t listen didn’t receive God’s truth. Those who don’t know how to listen to God’s Word in any era become spiritually weak and divisive. Listening is still spiritually vital in our day.

Very little can be learned by a person while they are talking.

Pastor Kent Hughes made this insightful observation on “quick to hear.” He wrote:

All of us have had “conversations” in which we are speaking, but the vacant eyes of our “hearers” and their body language indicate that they do not hear. Sometimes our listeners are “on another planet,” sometimes they are so self-consumed they cannot listen, other times they are so intent on what they want to say next that they are not catching a word we are saying. And to be honest, we are often like this ourselves.

Let’s learn a lesson from this observation. Being quick to hear is the first key to receiving God’s Word with humble eagerness… and it’s the only way for us to grow spiritually.

Love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin


How to Receive God’s Word

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be

quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger
of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness
and receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.”

James 1:19-21

Through James, God is telling His people how to receive His written Word, the Bible.

In verse 19, the word translated “quick” or “swift” has the idea of an eagerness to learn. In personal Bible Study we “hear” with our eyes as we read the Bible. Our hearts are open and willing to be instructed.

“Quick to hear” means wanting to learn.

In public worship at church, we are “quick to hear” when we prepare our heart to listen, when we come to church well-rested and fully alert to receive God’s truth.

This attitude requires humility since pride and arrogance are the antithesis of wisdom and actually shut down the learning process.

A heart that is “quick to hear” isn’t framing its own internal arguments, but is intent on benefiting from the teaching of God’s Word.

All of the apostles’ teaching was first conveyed orally to the churches, either by the apostles themselves or by those who heard their message and relayed it to the church. Then the message was inscripturated by letters and gospels under the inspiration of God.

In fact, it is widely accepted that James was the first inspired letter after the ascension of Christ. This is early NT Scripture. To grow spiritually healthy in Christ believers have to be “quick to hear” God’s Word.

Second, believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be slow to speak (19b).

This second trait is the “conjoined sibling” of the first. They can never be separated without disfiguring both. We never experience “quick to hear” without also experiencing “slow to speak.” They always go together.

In this context, “slow to speak” involves not thinking about one’s own thoughts and ideas while someone else is trying to explain the meaning of Scripture. This is a picture of disciplined restraint. It starts on the inside. “Slow to speak” begins in your heart.

The churches to which James wrote were less structured and invited more personal interaction as well as creating a climate where abuse was possible.

The speaker could be easily interrupted, and hasty, irreverent, or worthless comments could detract from the ministry of the Word. James commands those who had such interrupting tendencies to be “slow to speak.”

And third, Believers who willingly submit to God’s Word must be slow to anger (19c – 20).

The Greek word ὀργὴ (anger or wrath) in verse 19 doesn’t refer to an explosive outburst, but rather to an inner, deep resentment that seethes and smolders.

It’s an anger that is often unnoticed by others. It is therefore an anger that only the Lord and the believer know about. And for that very reason, it is a special danger in that it can be privately harbored.

In the context of James, it refers to an attitude hostile to scriptural truth when it doesn’t correspond to one’s own convictions, manifested—even if only inwardly—against those who faithfully teach God’s Word.

Solomon said in Proverbs 29:11, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” Anger destroys those who harbor it.

So that’s an overview of three keys to receiving God’s Word with a willing heart.

May we all be directed by these thoughts when receiving God’s written Word.

Love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin


No Person Knows When the World Will End

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words

will not pass away. But concerning that day and hour
no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son,
but the Father only… Watch therefore, for you
know neither the day nor the hour.”

Matthew 24:34-35, 44

This past Friday afternoon my phone rang at the church office.

On the other end of the line was an un-churched mom in a rural area just outside of our city. She asked to speak to the minister. I told her I was the pastor of the church and asked if I could help her. What she said next is an illustration of the times in which we now live.

She told me that her children were terrified about the end of the world this Saturday (May 21). The fierce wind storms and thunder storms the night before had only heightened their fears of doomsday. She was calling to know what to tell her children to calm their fears.

Since I was aware that Harold Camping had predicted that Saturday, May 21 would be the end of the world, I had some awareness of the situation. So I started by telling her what Jesus told us in the Bible: that no one knows the day or the hour of the end of the world.

Through our conversation I learned the no one in her family attends any church and they lived according to the bits and pieces of news and rumors the children pick up at school.

I encouraged her to find a church to get encouragement and support from other believers in her area from God’s Word. She needs a faithful Bible-teaching pastor and the fellowship of God’s people – a thought which false teacher Harold Camping disdains.

Camping says God is finished with the church.

So I explained to her that she and her children need to understand that false teachers like Harold Camping have been setting dates for the end of the world for many years.

Each time the newly selected date comes and goes, false teachers and their followers invent reasons why they need to recalculate and produce a new future date. The insanity cycle goes around and around and around. They have always been wrong, as Scripture says they will be.

Meanwhile, people who are untaught and ignorant of Bible doctrine get caught up in the frenzy with reactions ranging from hopeless despair all the way to unrestrained licentiousness.

At the same time, people who have no relationship with Jesus Christ see the true teaching of Scripture and prophecy as less credible and view all Christian teachers with greater suspicion. They begin to scoff and mock the warnings in Scripture intended for those with ears to hear.

When they lie and misrepresent God’s Word by saying, “The Bible guarantees it!” (as in this photo) their judgment is only intensified. This is the devil’s classic ploy: to discredit God’s word by associating it with those who abuse and ignore what it teaches.

Date setters and other kinds of false teachers who ignore the clear statements in Scripture about no one knowing the day nor the hour (or the week or month, for that matter!) will all be judged by God in His own perfect timing.

For the present time, false teachers serve to separate the wheat from the chaff in the world. Those who reject Bible doctrine and orthodox theology will be left to the unchartered waters of man-made inventions, superstitions, and every form of nonsense that is loose in the world.

I told this troubled woman that Saturday would come and go without incident and on Sunday she would realize that what I’m telling her is true. Then I told her that other false teachers would set new dates for the end of the world – and they will also be wrong. She shouldn’t believe them.

I reminded her that Scripture tells us the only way to be ready for the Lord’s return is to live a holy and godly live through faith in the finished work of Christ on our behalf.

Christians need not fear those who say, “The end is here!” or “This is the date of the end of the world!” because concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only (Mt. 24:36).

Resting in His sovereignty,
Pastor Kevin


God’s Desire to Save the Lost

On Sunday evenings, our church has been studying what the Bible says about how God saves people. We’ve considered God’s intention in salvation as it relates to doctrines such as election as well as God’s purpose in evangelism. We’ve seen that these twin purposes of God work together to accomplish the same glorious end.

However, we also need to consider God’s desire in salvation. The general desire of God to save sinners is distinguished in Scripture from His ultimate intention, which cannot be thwarted.

God’s will of desire is not the same as God’s ordained will of decree. For example, God desires that all people wouldn’t sin, but all people do in fact sin; therefore, this desire of God is not based on His sovereign will of intention, but rather on His stated will of desire.

When God wills something with His sovereign will of decree, that thing will happen. God created the heavens and the earth by His sovereign will of decree and it came to be for His good pleasure. God’s sovereign will of decree in salvation is that all whom the Father gives to Jesus for salvation will in fact come to Jesus (Jn. 6:37). Nothing can thwart this purpose.

We’ve also seen that Christians have been sent by their Savior with a great invitation. Our God is a missionary God. He sends His people into the world to make the gospel known to all.

The Father sent His one and only Son from His heavenly throne down to the “far country” where we live. He came to redeem a people for Himself; to purchase redemption for every person given by the Father to the Son. This was God’s intention in sending His Son to earth.

The invitation to believe the gospel, to come to Christ, to repent of sins, to be saved by grace through faith goes out to every nation and to every individual under heaven.

The same God who ordained the doctrine of election is the same God who ordained biblical evangelism as His chosen means of bringing every one of His elect to Himself. Both of these truths reflect the explicit teaching of Scripture.

According to the Bible, no one is able to respond to the gospel unless God enables them to do so (Jn 6:44, 65; Mt 11:25-27, Eph 2:1-9). This too is explicitly taught in Scripture.

However, God does desire the salvation of all people in a general sense and God is the Savior of all people in a general albeit temporal sense.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10 are often used as proof-texts to deny the particular redemption of God’s elect. These verses appear to teach that God wants to save everybody, but He can’t for reasons beyond His control (i.e. “the free will of man”).

Those who believe that God intended to save everybody have to add that second clause to escape the charge of universalism. Yet that’s exactly where general atonement leads when you read verses guaranteeing the salvation of Christ’s sheep and then apply it universally, the logical conclusion is universalism.

Clark Pinnock is a modern example of a Bible “scholar” who once held to a biblical view of theology and even biblical inerrancy, but then he began to question some of the hard truths of Scripture. He gradually moved from a reformed view of the sovereignty of  God toward Arminianism, then toward Pelagianism, then open-theism, and eventually he embraced universalism.

But why should anyone be surprised at this? Each step leads logically (and theologically) to the next step. Pinnock is just being honest in going where his theology has led him.

So we shouldn’t shrink from addressing these difficult texts in their context to understand what God is saying to us in these wonderful verses. We’ll find that God is the Savior of the world in a general sense, but nothing is beyond His control, especially in His intention to save His elect.

Keep in mind, we must take every doctrine of the faith and every belief and we must relate it to every verse of Scripture so that its shape and form will be biblical.

As a basic rule of biblical interpretation, the explicit teaching of Scripture always controls our interpretation of the implicit teaching of Scripture. Therefore, an implicit (or paradoxical) verse of Scripture must not be used to overthrow the clear meaning of an explicit teaching in Scripture.

These verses (1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10) could be used by universalists if they let the implicit teaching (what the verse appears to say) overrule the explicit teaching of the rest of the New Testament where universalism is clearly denied.

But again, this method of distorted interpretation isn’t possible without doing great violence to the clear teaching of Scripture throughout the rest of the Bible.

That said, let’s look at what 1 Timothy 2:1-4 and 4:10 are actually telling us.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Tim 2:1-4, ESV]

Later, in 1 Timothy chapter 4, verse 10 says…

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” [1 Tim 4:10, ESV]

Combining these two passages, we read that God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth and that God is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Are these verses the definitive rejection of the doctrines of election and definite atonement?

Only if you believe that the Bible contradicts itself or if you interpret the explicit teachings of Scripture by means of the implicit. Both of these approaches will lead you into error.

In 1 Timothy 2:4, God says through Paul that He is “our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

There are three things to notice in this verse. First, Paul is addressing a situation in Ephesus where some teachers may have denied that God is the Savior of the world in a general sense.

In Ephesus, Caesar was worshiped as the “protector, provider, and savior” of the people of the empire. Paul wants the church at Ephesus and the world at large to know that God is truly the Protector of the world, the Provider for the world, and the Savior (or deliverer) of the world.

Paul refers to God as our Savior throughout First Timothy (1:1; 2:4; 4:10). He wants the world to know that God desires all men to come under the wings of His salvation and deliverance.

Second, In 1 Timothy 2:4 the word “desire” is from the word thelo. Thelo reflects God’s will of desire which flows from His feeling and inclination. God is inclined to save anybody. It’s God’s nature to save as an act of grace, not because people deserve to be saved by Him.

But there’s another word for God’s determined sovereign will; that’s the wordboulomai. This will (or desire) comes from God’s precise determination; it inexorably fulfills God’s intention without fail.

So 1 Timothy 2:4 is referring to God’s inclination to save anyone, not to His actual sovereign intention (as is the case for God’s elect, 1 Timothy 4:10).

Third, the phrase “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:4 is used in the same context as “all people” in 1 Timothy 2:1 – “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”

The “all people” in this context doesn’t refer to every single individual. He isn’t saying that our prayer list should be an exhaustive and tedious register of every name of every individual in the world. That would be impossible, since we don’t know every name or every person.

What he means in 2:1 by “all people” is all kinds of people. We should pray for all kinds of people in the world, for all types of people. Then Paul enumerates some of the kinds of people for whom we should pray in particular: “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2).

Then in verse 4 of this same chapter, the phrase “all people” is used again the same way. God desires and is inclined to save all kinds of people, all types of people in the world. And this is in fact what the rest of Scripture describes.

Revelation 5:9 says of Christ, “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…”

God is saving people from every nation and people group in the world. People are coming to Christ out of paganism, out of dead religions, out of Roman Catholicism, out of the Hindu and Muslim religions, out of atheism… all kinds of people are being drawn to the Savior.

Then in 1 Timothy 4:10, when God says through Paul, that He “is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” He is referring to the salvation of all kinds of people in one sense, and in a second sense he’s referring to salvation as God’s benevolent temporal deliverance of all people (i.e. common grace), but especially as Savior of those who actually believe.

So he distinguishes between general deliverance by God as the Savior of all people from God’s particular saving work in the lives of those who actually believe the gospel. That’s the difference between temporal common grace and sovereign election when it comes to salvation. 

When we exposit through First Timothy later this year, we’ll cover these verses in the context of Paul’s instruction to Timothy, but this overview of two verses from that epistle provides a general understanding of how implicit verses are to be interpreted in light of the explicit verses regarding God’s will of desire and His sovereign will of intention.

With love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin


The Brilliance of Faith in a Darkening World

I was recently given a copy of, “Hymns For a Modern Reformation,” a collection of hymns written by the late Dr. James Montgomery Boice. What a treasure!

After reading each of the hymns and seeing the beauty of the lyrics, I quickly began searching online for the music so I could appreciate the full grandeur of these compositions.

I bought the MP3 audio files and loaded them onto my iPod and began listening. Glorious! I hope to be using some of these hymns in our worship services soon.

But perhaps the most moving aspect was the introduction at the beginning of the hymn booklet. It was written after Dr. Boice entered glory by the composer of the music, Dr. Paul Steven Jones, who was also the organist at Boice’s church, Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia.

I was so moved to read of Boice’s growing passion for writing hymns so late in his pilgrimage as cancer ravaged his mortal frame. There were times when he was too weak to eat and too sick to even drink water, yet he found strength and joy in writing hymns based on Scriptures he loved.

During the final days of his journey, he had become too sick to preach or even attend church services. However, on one Sunday when the children’s choir was to sing one of his last hymns, he summoned the strength to get to church where he lifted himself into the choir loft to be near the young musicians. He came to listen with God’s people to the song he had written.

The organist was amazed to see Boice lifting himself up the stairs to sit quietly out of sight. When they made eye contact, Boice was beaming with joy from ear to ear! Although he was no longer able to stand and preach, he was able to minister through writing these hymns.

Moved with emotion, I thanked God for examples like this. My heart was lifted in worship. I’m thankful for men of honor and character who serve their Master in their own generation.

That same day, I was also stunned and saddened to read the news account of a pastor in Mississippi, in the same town where I once ministered, who had been arrested for downloading child pornography at a public library computer. My heart sank with grief.

The juxtaposition of joy over the glorious example of James Boice in his final days writing music to the glory of God while cancer was destroying his body – and then the sickening heartache of another pastor carrying out his lust with loathsome hypocrisy was more than I could mentally or spiritually digest in one day.

Yet our Lord sees it all. He knows every act and every inclination of the human heart, and still He is patient and longsuffering with us. He is waiting until the time when all of His ransomed people finally come to repentance so that none of them will ultimately perish.

Until that day which the Lord has set by His own authority, you and I must faithfully continue. We live in a world that has both the brilliance of authentic faith – which is a joy to the believing heart – as well as the sadness of sin in an ever darkening generation.

May our lives and our examples be those that make heaven smile as we minister amidst those whose choices in this life make the righteous weep.

For His glory,
Pastor Kevin


Biblical Regeneration and Its Fruit

There are many articles of faith that are fundamental to all evangelical teaching. For example, there is agreement among all believers on the following truths:

(1) Christ’s death purchased eternal salvation;

(2) the saved are justified by grace through faith in Christ alone;

(3) sinners cannot earn divine favor;

(4) God requires no preparatory works or pre-salvation reformation;

(5) eternal life is a gift of God;

(6) believers are saved before their faith ever produces any righteous works; and

(7) Christians can and do sin, sometimes horribly.

There is a dangerous distortion of the gospel being taught in many evangelical churches today. It teaches that Christians may completely abandon Christ, the church, the Bible, and live in unrepentant sin for the rest of their lives and yet still be assured of eternal life with God.

This teaching is sometimes referred to as “easy-believism.”

What does Scripture teach that is embraced by those who affirm a biblical view of regeneration and conversion but rejected by proponents of “easy-believism”? The following are nine distinctives of a biblical understanding of salvation and the gospel.

First, Scripture teaches that the gospel calls sinners to faith joined in oneness with repentance (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance is a turning from sin (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47) that consists not of a human work but of a divinely bestowed grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). It is a change of heart, but genuine repentance will also effect a change of behavior (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:18-20).

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that repentance is simply an intellectual change of thought and that no turning from sin is required for salvation. Many churches have adopted this view in contrast to what Scripture teaches. Grace is being viewed as a cover for unrepentant license and licentiousness.

Second, Scripture teaches that salvation is all God’s work. Those who believe are saved utterly apart from any effort on their own (Titus 3:5). Even faith is a gift of God, not a work of man (Eph. 2:1-5, 8). Because it comes from God and not man, real faith cannot be defective or short-lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11).

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that faith might not last and that a true Christian can completely cease believing and yet still be assured of salvation and entry into heaven with or without faith.

Third, Scripture teaches that the object of faith is Christ Himself, not a creed or an experience or an altar call or a sinners’ prayer (John 3:16). Faith (belief) therefore involves personal commitment to Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). In other words, all true believers follow Jesus (John 10:27-28).

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel and doesn’t include a personal commitment to the person of Christ in terms of daily life and practice.

Fourth, Scripture teaches that real faith always produces a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation includes a transformation of the inner person (Gal. 2:20). The nature of the Christian is new and different (Rom. 6:6). The unbroken pattern of sin and enmity with God will not continue when a person is born again (1 John 3:9-10).

Those with genuine faith follow Christ (John 10:27), love their brothers (1 John 3:14), obey God’s commandments (1 John 2:3; John 15:14), do the will of God (Matt. 12:50), abide in God’s Word (John 8:31), keep God’s Word (John 17:6), do good works (Eph. 2:10), and continue in the faith (Col. 1:21-23; Heb. 3:14). These are not without failures and shortcomings, yet true believers continue to pursue righteousness throughout this life.

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that although some spiritual fruit may come, that fruit might not be visible to others and Christians can even lapse into a state of permanent spiritual barrenness (again with assurance of salvation and eternal union with God in heaven).

Fifth, Scripture teaches that God’s gift of eternal life includes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 8:32), not just a ticket to heaven when we die.

In contrast, according to easy-believism, only the judicial aspects of salvation (e.g., justification, adoption, and positional sanctification) are guaranteed for believers in this life; practical sanctification and growth in grace require a post-conversion act of dedication. Yet the Bible never teaches that sanctification involves a secondary post-conversion act of dedication.

The same faith that justifies a sinner before God is the same faith that also sanctifies. Without sanctifying faith there has been no justifying faith. True faith does both. They are two sides of the same coin. Where there is one, the other is also present.

Sixth, Scripture teaches that Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith He provides enables unconditional surrender of the will to Him (Rom. 6:17-18; 10:9-10). In other words, Christ has not bestowed eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him (James 4:6). More people don’t enter heaven simply because we change the terms of salvation. People don’t come to faith as a result of our redefining the gospel.

Surrender to Jesus’ lordship is not an addition to salvation; the command to submit is at the heart of the gospel invitation throughout Scripture. In contrast, easy-believism teaches that submission to Christ’s supreme authority is not relevant to the saving transaction and they give assurance to those who are unrepentant about their sin.

Seventh, Scripture teaches that those who truly believe will love Christ (1 Pet. 1:8-9; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 16:22). They will therefore long to obey Him (John 14:15, 23). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that Christians may fall into a state of lifelong carnality without repentance.

Eighth, Scripture teaches that behavior is an important test of faith. Obedience is evidence that one’s faith is real (1 John 2:3). On the other hand, the person who remains utterly unwilling to obey Christ does not evidence true faith (1 John 2:4).

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt the reality of one’s faith.

Ninth, Scripture teaches that genuine believers may stumble and fall, but they will persevere in the faith (1 Cor. 1:8). Those who later turn completely away from the Lord show that they were never truly born again (1 John 2:19).

In contrast, easy-believism teaches that a true believer may utterly forsake Christ and come to the point of not believing without repentance. They teach that if a person ever professed faith in Christ they are eternally saved even though they have become apostates to the faith once delivered to the saints.

No major orthodox movement in the history of Christianity has ever taught that sinners can spurn the lordship of Christ yet lay claim to Him as Savior.

Yet this is being taught in many evangelical churches in America today. The result is a corruption of the gospel which leads lost people to think they’re saved even when no change has taken place in their heart. It leads people to think that God accepts them on their own terms and lets them rule their lives without regard to Him.

This is a critical issue in the church. I have spent hours in conversation and in written correspondance with people who believe this way. I am astonished that this is actually being taught!

This issue is not a trivial one. In fact, how could any issue be more important? The gospel that is presented to unbelievers has eternal ramifications.

If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope and leave them unaware of their impending damnation apart from genuine faith in Christ.

This is an issue that every Christian must understand in order that the gospel may be rightly proclaimed to all the nations.

With love in the Truth,
Pastor Kevin


God is the Seeker

“And he made from one man every nation of mankind
to live on all the face of the earth, having determined
allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,
that they should seek God, in the hope that they might
feel their way toward him and find him.”
[Acts 17:26-27, ESV]

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands; no one seeks for God.
[Romans 3:10-11, ESV]

Who is the seeker in the relationship between God and man? Acts 17 seems to suggest that all men are capable of seeking God, but Romans 3:11 clearly states that no one seeks God.

Whenever we see a lack of harmony between two passages of Scripture we always interpret the less understandable passage in light of the more understandable passages. Or, to say it another way, we interpret the implicit in light of the explicit.

In this instance, Romans 3:11 where Paul is quoting Psalm 14 is very clear: “No one seeks God…” This refers to all humanity apart from faith in Christ.

In the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, whenever God calls people to “seek Him with all their heart,” it is always given to people who have already received His revelation and have a knowledge of the God who calls them to seek Him.

In other words, Israel already knew enough about God to know what it meant to return to Him and “seek” Him. In James 4:8, God exhorts drifting Christians to “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”

In contrast, God never tells pagan nations (who have never received His word or a knowledge of who He is) to seek Him; God presents Himself in both the OT and the NT as the ultimate “Seeker” who seeks and saves the lost (John 4:23). He does this according to His own good pleasure.

In Acts 17:26-27 Luke is saying that men have no excuse for not knowing about God because He has revealed Himself in man’s conscience and in the physical world. Apart from the gift of faith all men seek is a god of their own making.

This is why so many lost people are in false religions and cults. Their seeking is not for the one true God, but for a false idea of a god based on their own opinions of what “god” should be.

God’s providential activity as creator, ruler, giver, and controller should move men to seek Him in a natural sense. Reason itself should send them from the greatest effect (the universe) back to the first cause—God.

But so often, they are blind to nature’s witness because they are blind to God. In all that He has done in creating and sustaining the universe, God has revealed Himself to mankind.

Such self-disclosure should encourage men to search for Him and find Him. The natural revelation of God in the human conscience (Rom. 2:14–15) and the physical world leaves all men without excuse (Rom. 1:18ff.), since He is not far from each one of us.

Even those who never heard the gospel are still accountable to God for failing to live up to natural revelation. Had they done so, God would have brought them the special revelation (Scripture) they needed to be saved.

This has been historically documented by countless Christian missionaries who have been sent to lost people groups who were simply responding to the natural revelation they had with obedience.

God brings them the gospel through obedient Christians who preach the Word and spread the gospel around the world. All Christians must obediently spread God’s Word that the lost may be brought to faith in Christ.

With joy in the Seeker,
Pastor Kevin



Where Are Sins Purged?

Recently, I was asked to explain why I didn’t accept the Roman Catholic teaching on Purgatory. I wanted to share my response with our blog readers. Understanding the problem with a place like Purgatory has everything to do with the meaning of the gospel.

The idea of purgatory is offensive to anyone who understands the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ. In short, I don’t believe there is a place called purgatory for the following reasons:

(1) it is no where taught in Scripture;

(2) it is based on the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church centuries after the apostolic age (even though Catholic history claims the idea of purgatory existed before the apostolic age, this cannot be supported);

(3) when a person dies, according to Scripture, they either go to heaven or to hell; there is no intermediate state (in the OT, “Abraham’s Bosom” was a Jewish idiom for paradise where God is – i.e. heaven);

(4) most importantly there is only one place ever given in Scripture where sins can be purged from believing sinners — that is on the cross of Jesus Christ in His person and through His finished work on our behalf.

To “purge” means to clear of guilt; to free from moral or ceremonial defilement. According to Scripture, this can never be done by man on his own behalf; only God can clear of guilt brought by sin. The Old Testament sacrifices were a shadow of the purging and sacrificial work of Christ on Calvary.

On the cross, all of the sins of every person who would ever believe were purged from us and credited to Jesus; in turn, all of Christ’s perfection, holiness, and righteousness was credited (or imputed) to His people through faith in Him. From the cross Jesus declared, “It is finished!”

Whenever the Bible speaks of believers’ justification, it always speaks of a past-tense event that occurs at the moment of faith: “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).

“Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” (v. 9).”There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Our justification is an accomplished fact, not an unfinished project to be completed by us in purgatory.

No person can suffer to pay for their own sins either in this life or in the life to come. Purgatory is an invention of men and must be rejected for the reasons stated above.

With love in the truth,
Pastor Grant


Unflinching on the Truth

This past week I was going through the boxes in our garage. We recently moved and unloaded half a garage worth of boxes from the other house. So the sorting process continues.

As I looked into several of the boxes to identify the contents, I came across a box of my grandfather’s sermon manuscripts. The one on top was from Mark 3. The typing had faded, but the red ink of my grandfather’s pen was still clear and legible.

What I read in those notes was a declaration of truth. My grandfather was explaining the purpose of Mark’s gospel and was distinguishing it from mere history and mere biography. For me, this was a delightful discovery.

It encourages me that I had a grandfather who studied the Scriptures and sought to convey those truths to others over the course of his long ministry. Now, I’m following in that same line.

I want to be faithful to God’s Word. I’m increasingly aware that the truths and doctrines of Scripture are often under assault even in many parts of the visible church.

When a man is faithful to declare God’s truth on controversial matters he is sometimes thought to be insensitive or contentious. Yet if a man lovingly speaks truth to those in error, he is doing the kindest service to those people.

Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.”

It’s better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts but then kills. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.

It is better to be called cruel for being kind, than to be called kind for being cruel. It is better to be divided by truth than united by error.

Martin Luther boldly declared:

“If I, with the loudest voice, and clearest exposition, declare every portion of the word of God, except that little point which the world and devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle front besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

I’m grateful to follow in my grandfather’s path where hard truths must be proclaimed and lived out in a world of increasing hostility and animosity toward the gospel.

May all of us remember our high calling in Christ and strive to be faithful to Him and unflinching on the truth in all things. 

Your co-laborer in Christ,
Pastor Kevin