“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)
Try to imagine with me, if you can, what human history might look like to God, as He surveys it from beginning to end. From the prophetic insight given to us by Isaiah in the passage above, it seems quite likely that God would view it as a forest of trees,one stretching all the way from the Garden of Eden to the coming Paradise in the new Heaven and Earth; trees which, in His eyes, are representative of the countless lives of men and women throughout history who have been made righteous by the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. As plantings of God, they have come in every size and shade imaginable, yet all producing the same desired fruit of holiness by which the Lord God, the creator and sustainer of all the earth, will forever be glorified! What a truly satisfying picture this would be for God to behold; nothing less than a magnificent tapestrydepicting His marvelous and ages-long redemption story; an intricately woven work of art designed to surround His throne and to testify of His unfathomable love, grace, and mercy for all eternity.
At Work on a Loom
Although some may not be all that familiar with tapestries, they have been around for quite a long time, with some known to have been in use as far back as ancient Greece. Similar in texture to carpets, but hung on walls instead of covering floors, tapestries have served as portable murals for centuries, often gracing the throne rooms of kings as ways of depicting the memorable events or victories that have taken place during their reigns. Typically, tapestries are woven on vertical looms, or large wooden frames, that hold two sets of threads—the longer set being the stationary, immutable threads running lengthwise which are called the “warp,”with the shorter set being the variable threads running widthwise which are called the “weft.” The threads making up the warp are held in place under tension by the two sturdy frames at the end of the looms; while the shorter and discontinuous weft (threads) are woven in and out of part or all of the warp to create the design of the tapestry.
With this imagery in mind, let’s try to imagine how such a weaving process might be applied to the story of God’s redemption. To begin, let’s close our eyes and try to visualize an enormous loom being set into place by God when, “In the beginning…,” He bracketed the timeline for His redemptive story through the placement of two sturdy frames, one marking the beginning and the other marking the ending of human history. Having already discussed these at great length during several of our previous visits, we should be quite familiar with the two wooden frames by now; for they are the two trees that man was given to choose from in the Garden of Eden. The tree that was chosen, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, in its choice, became the beginning frame for the tapestry; while the tree that was rejected, the Tree of Life, took its place as the end frame—the frame toward which all of the design work was to be directed.
Given the enormous distance between these two frames and the incredible number of events that the design of this tapestry was meant to depict, we should not be surprised to learn that an additional piece of wood had to be inserted at the midpoint of the loom in order to secure and support the weight of the weaving work which would be taking place upon it. This plank was a tree, too, and one that we have also already discussed; for it was the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified; the lifeless tree which, throughout time, has served as the embodiment of all of mankind’s dead works and futile attempts at self-salvation.
Now, with the framework for the loom all set up in our minds, let’s begin to visualize the commencement of the weaving process as the first set of threads are placed on the loom. These are the warp, and for the purposes of this tapestry, they are ten unbreakable cords which have been stretched tautly from, and then securely fastened to, the first side frame, over the middle plank, and on to the other side frame. White in color and extending out across the ages, these cords are God’s eternally fixed standards of holiness–His unchanging rules for righteous living–known to us as the Ten Commandments; the plumb lines against which the actions of all men have been and will be measured. It is only fitting that these should be the first threads that are woven into the fabric of redemption because, unlike everything else…
…the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; …the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; …the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever, the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (Ps. 19:7-9).
Given the nature of these laws, what better foundation for redemption could have been laid, other than these?
With God’s laws now securely attached to the frames of the loom, the really intricate work on the tapestry can begin to get underway. What makes this part of the process so tricky is that before the weft—or those short and variegated “loose threads”created by humanity’s failures to measure up to the standards of God’s laws—can be woven over and under that holy warp, they must first be tied to the crimson cord which runs through the entire length of the tapestry’s design. This cord was introduced into the human story immediately following man’s first violation of God’s command and, as the cord of redeeming faith,it went on to connect every image in the story, from the beginning frame at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, all the way to the Cross, and then on to the end frame at the Tree of Life.
Of course, this cord is none other than our Redeemer, Jesus Christ;the One who was promised, the One who came, and the One who will come again—and the only One capable of salvaging all of the threads left dangling by the sins of mankind and then incorporating them into a beautiful and eternal work of art for all to behold. And how was He able to do this? By dying the death that should have been ours, on the tree representing all of our dead works, He was able to remove sin’s curse, and open the way to the Tree of Life once more, to any and all who would believe.
Try to imagine with me, if you can, God looking around His throne room, gazing lovingly upon His glorious tapestry of redemption—the one depicting the millions, perhaps even billions, of oak trees that were made righteous through their faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ; each tree springing up from a seed sown in the earth and then growing toward heaven, and each tree reproducing that one seed many times over through an abundant spiritual harvest, some of which will include…
…the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” produced through the discipline of the Lord (Heb. 12:11); …the fruit of a life transformed by the Spirit, in which the very character of Christ was reproduced; …the fruit of many answered prayers; …the fruit of souls won for the Lord; and, …the fruit produced whenever fear was overcome by faith, darkness was overcome by the light, and the flesh was overcome by the Spirit.
Try to imagine with me, if you can, the kind of joy a sight such as this would bring to the heart of God. Given that joy, let me ask you this question…when, at the end of time, God scans His forest of trees, will He find you there? Will you be a part of His tapestry of redemption—one of His oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified? If not, can there possibly be a good reason why?
God’s Tapestry of Trees
The Tapestry of Redemption presented in song, by the Tally Trio in “He Saw Me/Jesus Paid it All.”
His Truth, My Voice has added a new Pageto its lineup. It is the Workout Room, and this is the place where we will be attempting to get spiritually fit through a program of exercises in Spiritual Disciplines. The first set of exercises, dealing with the basic principles of Salvation, has been posted there so be sure to check it out. If you know someone who has yet to experience this gracious gift of God, or maybe someone who has been saved but still has questions about their Salvation,please be sure to refer them to thisPage— https://histruthmyvoice.org/?page_id=5756.
Many years ago, I attended a church which staunchly supported its denomination’s position that a person can lose his salvation. Up to that point in my Christian experience, I hadn’t given much thought to the matter, probably because the thought that a saved person could somehow become unsaved had never occurred to me. However, since all I have ever wanted to know is the truth, I decided to try and keep an open mind about it, at least until I could search the scriptures for myself.
As I started thinking about it, though, the idea of a person losing their Salvation began to seem like a very far-fetched and highly illogical one. I mean, if it was possible, at which point would that person cross the line?Would it happen after he had committed a certain number of sins, or, once he had committed a particular kind of sin? In other words, would it be the quantity or the quality of his transgressions—or, perhaps a combination of the two—that would push him out of the righteous camp and back into the camp of the wicked? And, if this could happen, just how was he to know if and when he had crossed over? Would an angel of doom suddenly appear on his doorstep with a message informing him of the transfer; or, would he come to know it as he found himself, going through life, with a dark cloud hanging over his head?
Of course, no one that I knew at the time had any answers to these questions—nor, could I find any in the Bible. And, that’s because, once I got around to checking out the verses usually used to support this theory, I found that, more often than not, they had been taken out of their immediate contexts, and out of the overall context of the Bible, as well. As examples of what I mean, here are some of the verses that I reviewed, along with a brief description of the contexts in which they are found. I will leave you to judge for yourselves whether or not they really support the position that a person can lose his or her Salvation.
The Verse:“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. ‘Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
The Context: These verses come from the Sermon on the Mount, and were a warning from Jesus to His disciples to beware of false prophets; saying that the way that they would recognize them would be by their fruits. It would be to these false prophets that Jesus would one day say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”
The Verse:“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
The Context: Here, Jesus is preparing to send out His twelve disciples to minister on their own, charging them to confine their ministry to Israel and not to take it to the gentiles. He warns them that, because of their association with Him, they will be persecuted and encourages them to stay strong through the opposition.
The Verse: “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
The Context: In the Olivet Discourse, when the disciples asked when the temple would be destroyed, Jesus warned that it would be at a time of great tribulation, when many false Christs and false prophets would arise, and when they would experience intense persecution. The last statement in this verse was intended to encourage them to remain faithful through whatever challenges they may have to face.
The Verse: “The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”
The Context: Jesus admonishes his disciples to be ready for His return at any time and uses a parable contrasting the reward waiting for a faithful servant and a faithless servant to make his point. In the parable, the faithful servant is the one who believes his master and behaves accordingly, while the unfaithful servant proves his unbelief through his mismanagement and abuse of others.
The Verse:“Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
The Context: The fig tree in this parable speaks of Israel and of her failure to produce the fruit that she should have. This doesn’t have application to an individual’s salvation.
The Verse:“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Context: This was directed to some Jews who professed belief in Jesus. But when He said this to them, they took issue with the part where He said they would be free. As descendants of Abraham, they claimed that they had never been enslaved, so they didn’t need to be set free of anything. In their response to Jesus’ statement, they revealed that they hadn’t come to faith at all.
The Verse: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”
Context: In the last of His seven “I Am” statements, in His farewell discourse in the Upper Room, Jesus declares Himself to be the True Vine—in contrast to Israel. The implication is that those in Israel who do not come to true faith in Jesus will be cast away as unfruitful dead branches, while those who do come to faith will remain in Him and bear fruit.
The Verse:“But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.”
Context: Once again, the branches referred to here are the Jews who, because of their unbelief, were cast off. Paul is admonishing the Gentile believers to not be arrogant toward the Jews because they had been grafted into the Vine. Instead, they are to be reverent and grateful for God’s kindness to them for, if He judged the unbelief of the Jews, He will also judge them for their pride and arrogance.
1 Corinthians 9:27
The Verse:“No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
The Context: Paul uses the metaphor of an athlete training for a race to describe his approach to ministry. In the same way that an athlete endures the rigors of training so that he may run and win the race, Paul endures whatever hardships are required to carry out his ministry and win the lost to Christ.
The Verse: “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”
The Context: To the Colossians who had become believers, Paul contrasts their conditions before salvation and after their salvation—reminding them that, because Christ has reconciled them to God in order to present them holy and blameless before Him, they should make every effort to remain steady and grounded in their faith.
The Verse:“Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.”
Context: Here, Paul is encouraging Timothy to stay strong as a minister of the Gospel—unlike those who claim to represent Christ but who have proven to be false teachers. He identifies two who fit that description, saying that they had been put out of the church for that reason.
The Verse:“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
The Context: This relates to the false teachers that Paul has been warning Timothy about—and, about how they will infiltrate the Church in an effort to lead true believers away from the faith.
The Verse:“But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”
The Context: In this passage, the writer is contrasting Christ with Moses—with Christ as the Son over the household and Moses as the servant. He then contrasts the followers of Moses with the followers of Christ. Moses’ followers failed to enter into the rest of God through their unbelief, but the true followers of Christ will prove their belief as they hold on to their faith in the midst of struggle and persecution.
The Verse:“See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.”
The Context: Again, recalling the unbelieving Jews in the wilderness, the writer admonishes those who hear the voice of God not to rebel and harden their hearts to the truth. Instead, they are to encourage and build up one another in the faith so that none of their hearts will become hardened by sin and unbelief.
The Verse: “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”
The Context: This is probably the most problematic passage for those who question the eternal security of the believer. However, I think it will begin to make more sense when it is interpreted within the context of the book in which it is found. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were either being threatened with or undergoing persecution for their faith; and, because of that, they were being tempted to return to the “safety” of their original Jewish faith and rituals. The imagery used here is of one who has come to the magnificent feast that is offered in Christ, only to return, in comparison, to the table scraps being offered by life under the Law. Having just made a case for the superiority of Christ over every aspect of the Jewish religious system, here the writer encourages those being tempted not to abandon the former in favor of the latter, as Judaism could offer them nothing in the way of salvation—only Christ can do that. In essence, the writer is saying that salvation through Christ is God’s Plan A—His only plan—and, since there is no Plan B, they need to stick with it.
The Verse: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The Context: Because Christ is the only way that anyone can be saved, for those who have heard the gospel of salvation through Him and rejected it—choosing instead to remain in their sinful conditions—there remains no other way for them to be saved. In their rejection, they have demeaned or “trampled underfoot” the sacrifice offered by the Son of God, so all they can expect is judgment and punishment as enemies of God.
2 Peter 2:20-22
The Verse: “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.”
The Context: The “they” here refers to false teachers who appear to have come to faith in Christ but haven’t really. It would have been better for them to not have made a show of knowing Christ because they will be judged all the more severely for their deception, and for their attempts to lead others from true faith.
2 Peter 3:17
The Verse:“Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position.”
The Context: Peter warns that false teachers are twisting Paul’s teachings, and admonishes his readers not to be deceived by them—but to grow in the grace of Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of the Lord.
1 John 2:24
The Verse: “See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.”
The Context: John’s readers had seen many leaving the church, so he tells them that their departures only indicated that they were not true believers to begin with. Warning that the devil is always at work trying to deny the Son, he encourages them to hold on to the faith that they had in the beginning.
The Verse: “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.”
The Context: This is part of Christ’s letter to the church at Sardis, a church He described as being dead, despite its appearance of life. However, there still were a few in the church who were saved—ones whose names had been written in the Book of Life and would not be removed.
The Verse:“And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”
The Context: Jesus, through John, warns that anyone who attempts to add to or take away from the inspired Word of God will be regarded as a false prophet and subject to death—the same fate as the false prophets in the OT.
Through Christ, We Have Become the Sons and Daughters of God
Instead of focusing on the more negative aspects of the question, perhaps it would prove more helpful if we approach it by looking at it within the context of the overall Story of the Bible—a story driven by God’s desire and plan to create a family for Himself. As we have learned in our three previous exercises in Salvation, this family was to be one made up of men and women from every tribe and nation of the world, who had originally been born as slaves to sin and death, but whose freedom had been purchased for them by the blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. Once forgiven and free, they were in a position to legally be adopted as the sons and daughters of God, and be placed into the family of God by the Holy Spirit—who would then begin the lifelong process of training these offspring of God to think, speak, and act like His children.
With this in mind, then, let’s now go to a passage of scripture which will provide us with a picture of the security that every believer, as a blood-bought child of God, should expect to experience. This passage is the Parable of the Prodigal Sonand, while I cannot ever recall haven heard it used in support of a believer’s eternal security, I think it provides us with one of the best examples of it to be found in the Bible.
As one of the best known parables, it tells the very familiar story of a father and his two sons; with the younger son, itching to get out and experience what the world has to offer, choosing to rebel against the authority of his father, while the older son remains at home and obedient to it. In its original context, this parable was given, along with the Parables of the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin, in response to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ criticism of Jesus for His practice of associating with “tax collectors and sinners.” It was used in that context to illustrate God’s great passion for seeking and saving the lost; however, when viewed from the perspective of family dynamics, it provides us with the reassuring picture that, no matter how far away from God we stray, His love for us remains the same and our position in His family is never in jeopardy.
Here, then, is the story, taken from Luke 15:11ff…
And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father,‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and came to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Now, let’s take a look at what this parable has to say in regard to eternal security…
The younger son, in pursuit of a life in the world, willingly chose to separate and alienate himself from his father;
Everything he did while in the world would have been reprehensible and an anathema to his father;
Yet, when he was as far away from his father as he could possibly get, he came to himself and the first thing that he acknowledged was, that in spite of his own unworthiness, his father was still his father; then,
When he repented and returned home, he discovered that to his father, the son was still his son.
In other words, the son’s sins did not, in any way, negate the Father-Son relationship—in fact,it remained intact the whole time that the son was living in the world. What they did do, though, was sever the fellowship between the two during the period of the son’s estrangement; and, ultimately, rob the son of the future rewards that his inheritance would have otherwise brought him. So, it wasn’t his position in the family which was lost—it was his fellowship with his father, as well as any future rewards for faithful service.
Lessons about Family from the Story of the Prodigal
So, when we consider that…
Every sin capable of being committed would have, at some time in the past, been committed by the men and women who eventually come to Christ for Salvation;
Every imaginable sin was paid for and completely covered by Christ’s atoning work on the cross;
When each of these men and women come to faith in Christ—that is, when they receive by faith His death as a substitutionary payment for their deaths–they are declared “Not Guilty” in the Court of Heaven, and immediately adopted into the family of God; and,
Their adoption papers have been signed in the blood of Christ, sealed by the Holy Spirit, and witnessed by God…
…is there anything that they can possibly do to undo their adoption, and cause them to lose their Salvation…especially in light of such promises as these from the Word of God?
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
…whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)
…whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28)
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
…you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 1:13)
God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy-to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 24-25)
I don’t think so, for…
Safe in the Hands of God
The Pilgrim Mennonite Mission Choir reminds us that, whatever we may do, God’s “Grace is Greater Than Our Sin”…
However, for all of the discussion and arguments provoked by these subjects, not much in the way of a consensus seems to have been reached. I believe this is primarily due to the fact that proponents on both sides of the issues have often failed to interpret the verses supporting their positions within their immediate contexts and within the overall context of the scriptures. But I believe that once they have been interpreted with a proper understanding of God’s overall purpose for man, and with a clear definition of the terms involved, we will find that these concepts are not all that difficult to grasp and that most, if not all, of the confusion can be eliminated.
Since both Predestination and Election and Eternal Security relate to the subject of Salvation—which we are presently addressing in this series ofexercises—they will be dealt with in this and our next session, while the subject of Women in Ministry will be addressed when we get to the exercises dealing with Service. Now, as for…
The most important requirement for understanding Predestination is the knowledge that God’s purpose in creating mankind was to bring into existence a people who could ultimately become His family. The significance of this purpose becomes clear when we look at three passages of scripture which address the subject of Predestination; for, in each one, Predestination is presented within the context of the believer’s membership in the Family of God:
In Ephesians 1: 4-5: He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself.
In Romans 8: 29: For whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son,that He might be the firstborn among many brethren [brothers]. In Ephesians 1:11: In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinedaccording to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted Christ should be to the praise of His glory. (This verse should be coupled with Romans 8: 16-17: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit thatwe are the children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ,if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.)
From these passages, it should be easy to see that we have been Predestined—
– To be adopted as sons of God—that is, to be legally placed into the family of God as His children;
– To be conformed to the image of God’s Son, Jesus—that is, to be remade spiritually until we think, look, and act like God’s children;
– To obtain an inheritance—that is, as legally adopted sons and as spiritually conformed sons, to inherit the estate of our Father. This inheritance was secured for us through the death of Jesus Christ and is an inheritance which we will receive upon our own deaths.
Once we understand that God’s purpose for Predestination was to make us part of His family, then we can come to a better appreciation of the term’s definition. The word Predestineis made up of two components…
…pre—meaning before + destine—meaning to set apart (or intend) for a certain purpose.
When God says that we have been predestined, what He means is that pre-, or before the foundation of the world, He destined, or set man apart for a certain purpose—that is, He designed us in advance for a particular destiny. As we have just seen that destiny is:
– To be adopted as sons of God; – To be conformed to the image of Christ; and, – To inherit the riches of the Father.
Support Adoption Through Evangelism
But how did He accomplish this? First, God pre-designed us for our destiny by the way in which He originallycreated us; and second, through His plan for our re-creation, or Salvation.
In Genesis 1: 26-28, we are told that when God created man, He created him in His own image and likeness. In other words, He created man:
– With a spirit which would live eternally, like God;
– With a soul consisting of a personality made up of mind, will, and emotions, like God; and,
– As a moral beingwith the capacity to distinguish between right and wrong, like God.
However, when the first man, Adam, was seduced by Satan, he failed the first test of “Sonship” which was obedience to the Father. As a result, man’s spirit, the means by which he communicated with God, died; and, without the spirit to give godly direction to his personality, man became a slave not only to his fleshly desires but a slave to Satan as well.
When God’s intended “sons” became slaves to sin and Satan, He put into effect the second part of His plan for our Predestination—that is, His plan for our re-creation or Salvation. Through the substitutionary and sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, God provided the means by which we could be regenerated, justified, and redeemed from the curse, penalty, and power of sin. Then, through the work of the Holy Spirit, He provided the means by which we could be drawn to God, convicted of our need to be saved, converted from sinners into “sons” of God, and sanctified, or set apart for the holy purposes of God.
As you can see, every human being who has ever lived has been predestined—or designed beforehand—for the glorious destiny of becoming a child of God, just by virtue of the way that He was created by God. However, because we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God’s intention for us, not everyone will realize that destiny—and this is where election comes into play.
By definition, Electionmeans a choosing or choice, implying that a vote of some sort has taken place. However, this does not mean that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirithave held an election in order to vote on which person will or will not be allowed into the family; for that would contradict the clear meaning of Scripture in passages like:
Be Sure to Cast Your Vote for Heaven Before It’s Too Late
John 3:14-16: And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Joel 2: 32 and Acts 2:21: And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Romans 10: 11: For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
So, if the members of the Godhead are not the Ones who are doing the voting, that must mean that the ones who are making the choices are the humans involved. In other words, although God has predestined, or pre-designed, every human being to become a member of His family, the responsibility for electing, or choosing, to do so rests with the individual. The conclusion that we must come to is this: that God, in His foreknowledge, knows who will and who will not elect to become His children, but He does not do the electing for them. Man, having been created in the image of God, with the capacity to choose and a will to exercise, is not only given the opportunity but also the responsibility to choose where, and with whom, his spirit will spend eternity.
Now that we have been strengthened by this understanding of God’s purposes through Predestination and Election, we are ready move on, more fully prepared to take on our next challenging exercise—which is, the question of whether or not we can lose the Salvation that Christ died to give us.
Now that we have a better idea of what Salvation is and why we need it, let’s stretch our spiritual muscles a little further as we learn how to appropriate this wonderful gift for ourselves, through something called the New Birth. Although some may consider the “head” knowledge of Salvation we gained in our previous workout session to be sufficient, that mere intellectual knowledge will prove to be woefully inadequate in providing us with the foundation we will need for our upcoming exercises in practical Christianity. For the purposes of this program, then, we can gain an experiential knowledge of Salvation (if it hasn’t been done already) through an active participation in each of the following four exercises…
Exercise #1—The Mandate for the New Birth
Exercise #2—The Spiritual Dynamics of the New Birth
Exercise #3—The Legalities of the New Birth
Exercise #4—Making the New Birth Personal
Exercise #1—The Mandate for the New Birth
In His encounter with Nicodemus, one of the religious leaders of His day, Jesus made the New Birthmandatory for anyone seeking entrance into the Kingdom of God. This meeting, recorded for us in John 3:1-14, took place one night when Nicodemus sought out Jesus for reasons which were never really made clear. That’s because, before Nicodemus had a chance to reveal the motivation for his visit, Jesus told him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (V.3).” Thinking like a natural man, Nicodemus tried to figure out how he could go back into his mother’s womb and be born a second time. To this, Jesus responded, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirithe cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said unto you, ‘You must be born again’(vv. 5-7).”
The Mandate for the New Birth
In this statement, Jesus made it clear that there is a fixed gulf existing between our fleshly and spiritual beings; and, although everyone born into the natural world will initially be born into a fleshly or physical state, only those who have been regenerated by the Spirit of God will be born into life in the Spirit. Here, then, we find the mandate, given by Jesus Himself, that anyone who hopes to see God and participate in His kingdom must be born again. However, what we aren’t told here is the reason why this New Birth is necessary, or the way that we go about experiencing it.
Exercise #2—The Spiritual Dynamics of the New Birth…
If we are to understand the reason for Jesus’ mandate, we first need to learn about the dynamics involved in the New Birth; dynamics which have everything to do with regeneration. Since, by definition, regeneration is—the act of bringing something into existence again—that is, to form again, or to be made new—for us…
…Regeneration is the act by which our dead spirits are brought back to life again by the Holy Spirit of God.
But, why is this necessary?
To answer to that question, we must go all the way back to the beginning of human history; back to the time when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. That’s when their spirits, as well as those of all of their future descendants, died because their sin caused them to be separated or cut off from God. This meant that every human being who would ever live, with the exception of Jesus Christ, would be born spiritually dead—or, with a spirit cut off from its source of life in God.
In his book, The Spiritual Man, Watchman Nee explains what is meant when we speak about this state of spiritual death…
…when we say the spirit is dead it does not imply there is no more spirit; we simply mean the spirit has lost its sensitivity towards God and thus is dead to Him. The exact situation is that the spirit is incapacitated, unable to communicate with God…it remains in a coma as if non-existent.
Because of this spiritual death, no descendant of Adam has ever been able to have, much less maintain, a relationship with God while remaining in his or her natural or fleshly state. The NewBirth, then, is what occurs when God’s Spirit brings a man’s spirit back to life and restores that man’s lost relationship to God, making it possible for him to communicate with God once again. But—and this is a very BIG BUT—before this can happen, there are certain legalities which must be addressed, legalities involving our repeated violations of God’s laws.
Exercise #3—The Legalities Involved in the New Birth…
As we learned back in Salvation—What It Is and Why We Need It,each of us has, throughout our lives, repeatedly offended God by violating His laws, or His codes of acceptable moral and spiritual conduct; and, in the process of that, we have unwittingly erected a barrier—or a wall of offence—between Him and us, something which makes any relationship between us impossible. Until such a time as we confess our faults—or, until we agree with God about what we have done wrong, and seek His forgiveness—we will continue to be “cut off” from Him; losing whatever opportunities we may have had to get to know Him and to experience His grace. Thus, the elimination of our offenses against God, as well as the removal of the wall which those offenses have created, is what the New Birth is all about.
The Wall of Offense Between God and Us
Unfortunately, because most of us have no concept of what God’s righteous requirements for relationship with Him are, we don’t know what we have done to offend Him. Most of us have lived our lives according to the codes of conduct that we have acquired from our parents, picked up from our friends and associates, or created for ourselves in response to the ever-changing circumstances of life. Unlike God’s immutable standard of holiness, our concepts of what constitutes right and wrong have been derived from very human and fallible sources and, as a result, tend to have very nebulous boundaries. Consequently, the principles by which we live are often adapted to the situations in which we find ourselves at any given moment, with what is true and right in one situation differing from that in another. With backgrounds steeped in such a relativistic system of ethics, how are we to know for sure what God’s requirements are; and, how can we understand what our offenses against Him have been?
The only way we can know how we have missed God’s “mark” for acceptable behavior (with “sin” being defined as “missing the mark” of God) is through the Bible, where God has set forth His standard of righteousness, or right living, in Exodus 20: 1-17—a standard we know today as the Ten Commandments. In these commandments, He makes it clear that, in order for us to have a spiritual relationship with Him, we must meet certain conditions:
We can have no gods other than Him; ours is to be a personal and an exclusive relationship;
We cannot make an idol, or anything in the form of a person, or an object from the natural or spiritual world, which we worship in His place; so, no person, possession, position, pleasure, power or money can be substituted for Him;
We cannot take His name in vain—that is, use His name in a disrespectful or dishonest manner. We are not to use God’s name as a swear word, or to legitimatize or authorize any activity which He has not sanctioned;
We are to remember the Sabbath day, or one day in seven as a day of rest and worship, and keep it holy, or set apart for Him;
We are to honor our parents, respecting them as God’s appointed authorities in our lives;
We are not to murder; or, according to Jesus in an expanded version found in Matthew 5: 22, to even harbor hatred in our hearts toward another person;
We cannot steal—that is, take anything which is not ours, including money, property, an employer’s time, a person’s reputation, or the affection of someone who belongs to another;
We cannot commit adultery, or any sexual sin, either by thinking about it or actually doing it (see Matthew 5: 28 for another amplified rendition);
We cannot bear false witness or lie about anyone else; and,
We are not to covet, or want for our own, anything that belongs to another person; this includes his or her spouse, children, positions, possessions, personalities, looks, or money.
The Laws of God
Since we all have violated these laws at one time or another, how can we, as naturally unrighteous people, meet such rigorous demands for righteousness and enter into a relationship with God? In all honesty, we can’t—at least, not on our own. We must have the help of SomeoneElsewho can meet these demands on our behalf; Someone who can bridge the gap between God’s holiness and our sinful condition, thereby making a relationship between God and us possible.
Exercise #4—Making the New Birth Personal…
Since God is the only One who completely understands the strict demands of His law, as well as man’s total inability to meet those demands, He took it upon Himself to create a plan by whichSomeone named Jesus could bring God and man together. And, for us to understand how this plan works, here is what we need to know:
Our Lifeline to God
First, we need to understand that God is so holy that anyone who comes into His presence must be free from any and all impurities, or else he will die. When God told Adam that if he ate from the forbidden tree he would die, He was making clear to him the principle that “…the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23)” and that “the person who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:20).”
Since the law of God’s holiness requires that sin’s offenses be paid for by death, the one who has offended Him must die to satisfy the judgment imposed upon him by the law.
However, God in His grace also stipulated in His law that a substitution could be made for the offender—that is, the sinner could avoid paying the penalty for his own violations of God’s law if he could find Someone else who was willing to die in his place. But, in order to qualify as such a substitution, this Someone could not be a person who was himself a sinner—he would have to be a person without guilt in order to satisfy everyone of God’s specific rules for holiness. The only person who has ever lived who could meet these demands was Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world to live a life of sinless perfection; a life which would fulfill all of the righteous demands of the law. Then, Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross—a death which paid sin’s penalty, and one which could be substituted for the death required of each and every sinner who would ever live.
In addition to paying the price for everyone’s sin through His substitutionary death, Jesus also conquered the power of death once and for all when He was raised from the dead to live again forever.
But, even though Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s sin, the payment for any individual’s penalty would not automatically be credited to him: – First, he must come humbly before God, acknowledging that he has violated the laws of God and is unable to meet God’s demands for righteousness on his own, in order to receive, by faith, what Christ has done on his behalf; – He can then exchange his sin for the gift of salvation graciously made available to him through Christ’s sacrificial death; and, –With this transaction, the wall of offense separating him from God will come down, his spirit will be Born Again, and God’s Spirit will come to live within him and begin teaching how to live like a son of God.
If you aren’t sure that you have experienced this New Birth, then let me urge you to go to God, acknowledge the offenses which have kept you spiritually dead and alienated from Him, and ask Him, forJesus’sake, to remove them. When you do, the Holy Spirit will come to live within your spirit and you, too, will be born againas a child of God.
“You must be born again.” — John 3:7
The Talley Family shares the story of our Salvation in this moving medley…
When it comes to thinking about Salvation, there seem to be two vastly different approaches to the subject. Although both of these are very broad generalizations…
To the “Unsaved,” Salvation is often regarded as either–
an antiquated theological doctrine, designed to rob life of its happiness and any sense of personal fulfillment; or,
a religious crutch for those who lack the intelligence, sophistication, attractiveness, or success necessary to do life well on their own; while…
To the “Saved,” it is often regarded merely as the means by which—
their sins are forgiven and their lives are made right with God; and,
their eternal destination is changed from Hell to Heaven.
Of course, the first approach is completely inaccurate and the second one is woefully incomplete. So, in an effort to correct the former and complete the latter, let’s begin to stretch our Spiritual understanding as we learn What Salvation Is, and Why We Need It.
We All Need to be Rescued by Jesus
What Salvation Is
For a definition of Salvation,I prefer the one found in my little Webster’s pocket dictionary which defines Salvationsimply as “a saving or a being saved” or as “a person or thing that saves.” I like this definition because “a saving” implies an act, “a being saved” implies a process; and “a person or thing that saves” implies that salvation is not something that we can do for ourselves—it must come from a source outside of us. Essentially, this is what Biblical Salvation is all about; for, in reality it is…
The One-TimeAct of faith which makes a person a child of God;
The Life-LongProcess of spiritual growth which follows; one that transforms the character and behavior of that person into that of a child of God; and,
Jesus, the One Outside of Ourselveswho does all of the saving.
The One-Time Act of Faith
As simple as this may seem on the surface, please don’t let its simplicity blind you to the real significance of this One-Time Act of Salvation;for it is the only legitimate, divinely-authorized way in which a Holy God takes a Sinner, or a person who was…
…dead in the trespasses and sins in which [he] once walked, following the course of this world…carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and [was] by nature [a child] of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Eph. 2:1-3)…
…and not only adopts him or her into His family as His own child, but also makes that child a Joint-Heir with His only begotten Son, Jesus! And, it is through this One-Time Act that a person goes from being alienated from God to being accepted by Him, from religious slavery to spiritual freedom, from unrighteousness to holiness, and from certain death to life everlasting! So, just how does all of this happen? Well, through the three stages of Salvation known as Redemption, Sanctification, and Glorification.
Redemption and Why We Need It
Since the definition of Redemption is…to pay off, as a debt; to buy back or recover; to ransom or to obtain the release of a captive by paying the demanded price; to restore to favor…
Redemption for our purposes is the act by which our sin debt is paid, making us righteous in the sight of God and releasing us from the penalty and power of sin.
This act is a necessity for us because while God is holy, due to the sin nature we all inherited from Adam, we are not. Therefore, before any of us can be reconciled to God and any adoption can take place, something has to be done about the problem of sin in our lives.
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34
While most of us are all too quick to deny that any sin problem exists, it is a spiritual reality that from the moment of our births until the moment of our deaths, we are constantly adding to a “rap sheet” of offenses against God; that is—through our thoughts, words, or deeds, we are repeatedly violating the laws of God’s righteousness, with these violations all too judiciously being transcribed into our “permanent records.” This means that we are all lawbreakers from birth, on the run from God, and unaware of the day looming before us when we will be apprehended and called to appear in His court for judgment.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” –Romans 3:23
Sadly, because we don’t realize or accept the fact that we are sinners, or because we think we will be able to appeal to God on the basis of our morality or relatively good works, we mistakenly think that we can safely put this day of reckoning off until after our deaths. But, this is a disastrous decision which will leave us standing before the Righteous Judge of the Universe, alone, guilty, and without any legal representation. And, once the charges against us have been read—and our appeals of innocence have been proven to be without merit—this Just Judge will have no other choice but to honor the law and sentence us to the death that the law demands—a death which will mean our eternal separation from God and all things holy.
But, there is a way that such a terrible outcome can be avoided. You see, this Righteous Judge is also the God of love, grace, and mercy—the One who was…
… not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9)…
…and because of that, He made a way to provide us with an Advocate, sort of a court appointed attorney, who will plead the cases of all those who come before Him and acknowledge the crimes for which they are guilty—if they will only do sobefore they die!
Jesus is Our Advocate
This Advocate is Jesus, the Son of God, and He can represent a sinner before God because He is the One who came to earth, lived a sinless life which met the righteous demands of God’s law, and then died an agonizing death on the Cross to pay off the sin debt owed by every human being who has ever lived. Through the substitution of His death for theirs, deaths which the law calls for, He is able to clear the charges against them and offer them a pardon, without so much as a fine to pay! Once pardoned, and with their sin records expunged by the blood of Christ, they can stand righteous before God and in a position to be legally adopted as His spiritual children!
As for Sanctification
Since the definition for Sanctification is …to set apart as holy; to consecrate, or to devote to sacred use…
…Sanctification, for us, is the process whereby a new child of God is set apart for the sacred or holy service of God.
In reality, this is the life-long schooling in righteousness that every child of God must undergo if he or she is to realize the eternal purpose for which they were created. It begins at the moment of adoption when the Holy Spirit of God comes to live within the heart of each new believer, and He begins teaching him what it means to be a child of God. He does this by…
Training him in the laws of God, and then empowering him to obey those laws;
Reproducing the character of Christ in him through the development of the “fruit of the Spirit”–or the character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control;
Empowering him to carry out the work of Christ through the various “giftings” of service imparted by the very same Spirit;
Teaching him how to worship God, and how to overcome His enemies through prevailing prayer and persistent praise; and,
Helping him learn to die to the things of the flesh so that he can learn to live by the power of the Spirit.
This training—which we will discuss in greater detail in a later session—is designed to totally transform every child of God, until he thinks, speaks, and acts like Jesus; something which, when completed, will prepare him ultimately for his graduation into the glorious and eternal presence of God, his Father.
Glorification: The Final Stage of our Salvation
Since the definition for Glorification is …to give glory to, to honor; to extol; to praise highly…
Glorification is what we will experience when, upon our physical deaths, our earthly bodies are replaced by heavenly or glorified ones, and we are ushered into the presence of God where we will receive the inheritance He has promised to His children.
Then, as the legitimate, blood-bought children of God, we will be recognized and honored in heaven, and share in the same glory that is accorded to Christ. And, having been prepared and equipped through our earthly training process, we will be ready to move into positions of authority as co-regents, or rulers, with Christ, when He sets up His kingdom, first here on earth and later in eternity.
As you can see, Salvation is, in no way, just an antiquated theological doctrine or religious crutch for the needy; neither is it merely about having one’s sins forgiven so he or she can bypass Hell and go to Heaven. It is the one and only way that we can realize our God-ordained destinies of becoming the Children of God—destinies made possible solely through the sacrificial death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ—and ones which will become realities once we have been Born Again.
A message worth considering from Francesca Battistelli…
In anticipation of our soon-to-begin Vignette #8, let’s take a few minutes to review the situation that poor Noah was in when our last Vignetteended. As you may recall he, his immediate family, and a large number of animals were locked up in the Ark—the really big boat he had built at God’s direction—and were floating around on what must have seemed like an interminable sea.
At Sea in the Ark
This massive ocean had come into being (perhaps I should say it had come back into being) when God released onto the earth the waters which had been stored above and below it at the beginning of creation; an action which eliminated nearly every trace of His original creative work and restored the earth to its initial state of primordial chaos.
We also need to think back to the summary statements of our off-stage Narrator, made just before the curtains closed on Vignette #7, as he sadly reported…
And all flesh died that moved on the earth (Gen. 7:21)… Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark (Gen. 7:23)… And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (Gen. 7:24)…
I don’t know about you but if it had been me, by this time I would have been one severely traumatized human being; not only because I had so recently endured the most terrorizing of all disasters—one involving earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, floods, and hurricane-like storms—but, as it was just pointed out by our Narrator, because I and all those with me would have now been cooped up on a boat for 150 days, without any sign of land or end to our cruising in sight! Certainly, 150 days would have given me plenty of time to ruminate on our situation and to formulate a list of the “concerns” that I would have liked to have presented to God, should I ever hear from Him again. In fact, if it had been me there, instead of Noah, here are a few of the issues I would have liked to have brought up in my next encounter with Him…
God, what happened to You—where did You go? Did You forget about us? We haven’t had a word from You in 150 days. Given the ordeal that we have just been through, couldn’t You have made an appearance every once in a while to give us an update on what has been going on outside of this boat?
Speaking of these 150 days, when I first signed on for this venture, I was led to believe that it would only last for 40 days and 40 nights—roughly six weeks and not the five months which it has become. As You well know, I have already invested a good part of my life, not to mention all of my material resources, in this undertaking; so I don’t think it is asking too much for You to have been a little more upfront about the actual terms of this contract—especially when You know how much I value having a clear “Definition of Terms” laid out for me, with no contingencies hidden away in the fine print.
You see, if I had only known in advance how long this confinement was going to last, I would have packed a lot more clothes and brought a lot more scrolls to read; plus, the boys could have brought along some of their musical instruments to help break up the boredom. During the 40 days that the Deluge was in progress, we at least had the sound of the wind and the rain, not to mention the on-going underground rumblings and convulsions to listen to. But for the past 110 days, there has been NOTHING to break up the sound of dead air and the monotonous drone of water sloshing up against the hull of the boat.
Finally, about the living conditions here on the Ark,I am very sorry to have to report that they have been a lot more challenging than what I had anticipated. Of particular concern to me have been…
The Water Situation
Because of the foresight that You gave us, we knew to incorporate cisterns into the design and construction of the Ark and, during the forty-day downpour, we were able to collect and store a great deal of rainwater in them. However, since the rain ended—and since we have been confined on board a lot longer than I had originally planned for—we have been unable to replenish our supplies. In light of this, and not knowing how much longer we will be afloat, it seems that the wisest course for us to take now is to initiate a water rationing program for the duration of this trip.
The Sanitation Problem
Of course, the rationing of our water will mean limiting the number of baths we can take and the amount of laundry we can do–plus, it will make keeping this huge vessel clean virtually impossible. When you consider that we haven’t had a really good breeze through here since the rain stopped, and with odor from the animals wafting up from the two lower tiers of the Ark to add to our aroma, the atmosphere in the upper tier where we are living will, no doubt, soon become rather rank.
By the way, about the animals, we are very grateful that once they were settled in their darkened cubicles and the boat started rocking back and forth, they all seemed to drift off into the deepest and most extended period of sleep imaginable—in fact, they are all still sleeping. I just can’t imagine how we would have ever fed them all, plus dispatched all of their pooh, had they been awake all of this time!
The Matter of Our Diet
As for our food, we have been eating nothing but grains and dried fruit for the past five months and, to put it bluntly, we are getting pretty sick of it. There are only so many ways these foods can be prepared—especially when you consider that, due to safety concerns, we cannot light a fire over which to cook them. Mrs. Noah has done her best to be creative but really, our menu is getting awfully tiresome and, after all of this time, it is starting to taste a little stale.
It is not that I am complaining, mind You; it’s just that, while we are so very thankful to be alive—particularly when everyone else on the earth has perished—I felt I should call these things to Your attention, in the event that another flood of this magnitude is called for in the future. If it is, then You can use this information to make adjustments to the plan, and to work out the bugs in the operation before any such disaster gets underway. Oh…just an afterthought…in the event that another Ark is ever needed, it would really be nice to have a deck on top so that, when the rain is over, whoever is manning the ship can go out and get some sun and fresh air. I am not complaining, mind You—I’m just saying…
With that, we begin to hear the sound of splashing water coming from the Stage, and as the curtains open, we see the Ark—just as we left it—bobbing up and down on the waves. And, as if he had been reading my thoughts, we hear our Narrator open this Vignette with these words…
But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.
And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided. The fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters receded from the earth continually (Gen. 8:1-2).
And, as if to let us know that this wasn’t going to be an overnight process, he goes on to add that…
…At the end of 150 days the water had abated, and in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters continued to abate until the tenth month; in the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen (Gen. 8:3-5).
Noah Releasing the Raven
We then watch as Noah, after waiting another forty days, opens the window of the Arkand sends out a raven which, rather than returning to the Ark, flies back and forth over the waters until they are dried up off of the earth. Noah also sends out a dove at this time but, when she can find no dry place to land, she returns to him in the Ark. Undaunted, seven days later, Noah tries the same thing again, only this time the dove comes back to him in the evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her mouth. While this lets Noah know that the waters have subsided, ever patient, he waits another seven days before sending out the dove again. This time, however, she does not return.
After this, our Narrator continues with this commentary…
…in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry.
In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. Then God said to Noah, ‘Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animal and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.’
So [after spending 370 days in the Ark] Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his son’s wives with him. Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark (Gen.8:13-19).
Leaving the Ark–At Last!
In another little aside here, let me just say—if it had been me there, instead of Noah, after floating around in a boat with a bunch of animals for over a year, a boat over which I had no controls, I would have fallen down and kissed the ground, dirt and all–even though I have no use whatsoever for dirt, sweat, or bugs! I would have been so happy to be back on solid ground again, I would have hugged that dirt until someone came and scraped me up off of it. Once again, I am not complaining, I am just saying…
Noah’s Worship and Offering of Thanksgiving
However, on our Stage, we see Noah do something entirely different. He immediately sets about building a makeshift altar with the few materials he can find, and upon which he proceeds to offer some of every clean animal and bird he brought with him as a burnt offering. But, while we sit silently, reverently, watching the smoke from the offering rise heavenward, our reverie is suddenly shattered by the voice of the Lord as He utters this all-important promise…
I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease (Gen. 8:21-22).
Then, in much the same way that He did with Adam and Eve, God blesses Noah and his sons, saying…
Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it (Gen. 9:1, 7).
However, unlike He did with Adam and Eve, God tells Noah that from now on…
The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.
But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning of the life of man. For…whoever shed the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Gen. 9:2-6).
Then, as if this wasn’t enough, God—who had warned Noah of the Flood, who had instructed Noah how to build an Ark for the safety of him, his family, and the animals, and who had protected and provided for Noah throughout the tribulation of the Flood and its aftermath—does one more amazing thing. He enters into a covenant with Noah—that is, He initiates a contract with him, in which He promises that…
…never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.
This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth. This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth (Genesis 9-17).
The Sign of God’s Promise to Noah
Wow, what a wonderful promise–and what a great place at which to end Vignette #8! Before we leave this Vignette, though, let me just say, that with this promise, all of my previously stated “concerns”–you know, the ones that were offered in the event of another flood–can be completely disregarded. For, while they were legitimate at the time, they are now no longer relevant. Please keep in mind that I am still not complaining, I am only saying…
Join the Gaithers as they remind us that in any crisis, as long as we are in the Ark of Salvation, “It Is Well With My Soul”…
Biblical illustrations courtesy of http://www.freebibleimages.org/.