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Certainty in Christ!

 

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.

Psalm 119:89

What blessed and eternal comfort the child of God has in God’s own Word!  You see this according to faith, not according to sight, for you live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  But what kind of faith? The faith that believes that anything is possible? The faith that believes you can do anything you set your mind to?  The faith which blindly trusts that all things will work out the way we hope them to?

Such description of faith is not that description of faith revealed by God in His Word.  The Christian faith is not “blind.”  It trusts in God’s promises.  Such faith does not trust in worldly expectations or self expectations, but only on the mercies of God in Christ.  Such faith does not believe that anything is possible by oneself or by putting one’s mind to something.  It rests on God’s unchangeable and unconditional grace, revealed in Christ.  Also, such faith does not rest on false or misguided hopes, for its foundation is God’s Holy and faithful Word.

Such faith as the Christian faith rests squarely on the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  And this Gospel is nothing but certain and sure, and not at all because I believe it.  The Christian faith rests upon God and His Son.  He makes it sure.  I do not add anything at all to it, but simply believe it.  This, after all, is what Christians do.  They confess Christ and believe His Word.  And they are sure that God’s Word “abides forever.”

 

Luther

“Christ and His side are weak, and the Gospel is a foolish proclamation.  On the other hand, the kingdom of the world and the devil, its prince, are strong; in addition, the wisdom of the flesh is very impressive.  But this is our consolation, that the devil with his members cannot accomplish what he wishes.  He may trouble many persons, but he cannot destroy the Gospel of Christ.  The truth may be endangered, but it cannot perish.  It is attacked, but it cannot be conquered; for ‘the Word of the Lord abides forever” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p54).

Prayer: Gracious Father, forgive me for doubting Your promises and Your undeserved mercy.  Help me at all times to trust in Your Word and be ever sure of Your abundant grace and mercy in Christ.  Amen.

Why so many Christian Denominations?

Blankman, Drew & Todd Augustine.  Pocket Dictionary of North American Denominations.  Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

The preface of this introductory booklet of denominations in North America (which includes such nonChristian groups as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons) states, “There are thousands of denominations in North America” (7).  This is not difficult to imagine, as within most of the mainline denominations, a number of subgroups exist.  Apart from Roman Catholicism, it would appear, the various church bodies subsist under various names and designations.  However, even Roman Catholicism, for its claim to unity, is vastly divided and far from united.

One might wonder why all these categorizations (denominations) exist.  The reality of Christendom today seems to be that of fragmentation, not unity in the confession of the same faith.  The “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” and “one body” of Ephesians 4:4,5 appears nonexistent.

The ecumenical movement strives for the visual demonstration of a united Christendom, albeit in a quite deficient way.  Agreeing to disagree does not work in the realm of God’s revelation in Christ.  Nor does emphasizing only the areas of agreement among Christians offer the solution for uniting the differing church bodies under one umbrella.

The answer to bring about true unity in Christendom is not to minimize the differences and to maximize the agreements.  Neither is the answer to focus only on what might be determined to be the essentials and then allow considerable freedom on “other” teachings deemed by some to be nonessential, even though God has spoken about these very things, too (i.e. the ordination of women, the acceptance of homosexuality, redefining sin, etc.).

The answer for today’s fragmented Christendom is to turn from its departure of Holy Scripture and the doctrine of Jesus Christ to it, and to continually pray and strive for genuine unity—not the sham unity of a false and deceiving ecumenicalism, but the true unity of faith which demonstrates itself in same-saying—that is—confessing together as one—the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed in Holy Scripture.

Here, however, is right where the problem lies…Not all do or will confess the same thing concerning Christ and concerning the doctrine revealed in the Holy Bible.  This is really the reason why so many different denominations exist today—because not all say (teach) the same thing.

What is the Bible?  Who is Jesus?  Who has the hope of eternal life?  What are the Sacraments?  These are questions that call for answers, and for which various answers will be given.  The fault, however, is not to be found in the Holy Bible.  The fault is to be found in those who disbelieve it and use it contrary to God’s will, which we only know from Holy Scripture itself.

As God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “He who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully” (Jeremiah 23:28).

And also, as Jesus Himself says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word (John 14:23).

So why do all the various denominations exist?  Because they do not all teach the same doctrine.  And because they do not all believe, teach, and confess the same doctrine, they do not consistently all believe, teach, and confess the same Christ.

St. Paul writes, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).  Even a little departure from the Word of God can (and has) led to apostasy from the true and saving faith.

Though one may continue to believe in Jesus for salvation from sin and death, such faith is quite weakened (and weakening) should one also continue to believe in even theistic evolution or deny the miraculous accounts of Jonah, Jesus feeding the 5000, etc.  Really, it is inconsistent to say that one believes in Jesus and His Word and yet to deny the very Word given by our Lord.

Believing in Jesus Christ and denying Holy Scripture is inconsistent for the Christian and for Christianity, for one who truly does believe in Jesus Christ will also hold His Word to be true.

How can one rightly believe in Jesus Christ if that one continues to deny that very Word which testifies of Christ?  Here we are not only talking about the Words themselves, but also about the meaning of the Words—not the meaning which we place on them—but the meaning which God attaches to them, Scripture interpreting Scripture.

By God’s grace, and only by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ, does anyone have the hope of eternal life.  This means that eternal life is the gift of God and not the work of man (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It is faith in Christ alone that saves.  This is true (John 3:16-18).  And one is saved only as one remains in this true faith.  For this reason is it necessary to continue in the Word of God—that one remain in such faith and thus be made more sure of God’s grace in Christ.

Any other doctrine than God’s will only lead away from and not to, Christ and eternal life.

For this reason, St. Paul writes, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Book Review-The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (2008)

Hindson, Ed & Ergun Caner  (general eds.), The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics (2008) [Harvest House]

In the introduction, Edward Hinson and Ergun Caner write, “We wanted to place in your hands a tool that will enable you to both defend you faith and answer the major objections to Christianity.  More specifically, we wanted to provide a resource that is accessible to every Christian—a popular encyclopedia that avoids the technical jargon of specialists while cogently presenting a Christian response to skeptics and cynics” (11).

With more than 60 authors, many affiliated with Liberty University and Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia, and about 180 articles, this book is indeed a tool to help answer some of the major objections of Christianity.  Though not exhaustive, it is a very helpful introduction to some of the names, teachings, movements, philosophies, and theologies antagonistic to the Christian faith.  From abortion to Zoroastrianism, this book covers, in a very readable and understandable way, that which is beneficial for the Christian who seeks to further answer arguments of the naysayers.

Throughout the book, one will cannot help but notice its evangelical bent.  Every now and then, for example, various articles contain the assumption that even nonChristians can make decisions and choices for Christ.   Also, the erroneous teaching sometimes explained in this manner as, “once saved always saved” seems to be held.

In the article, “Sin,” Caner writes, for example, that the categories of venial and mortal sin within the Roman Catholic Church, “demands that a person can become a Christian and receive grace and forgiveness and then possibly lose that salvation again” (453).

Properly understood, in distinction from the teaching of the Church of Rome, these categories of venial and mortal sin can actually magnify the grace of God in Christ Jesus and give the Christian greater confidence of that unmerited grace and favor of God that the Christian seeks all the more to amend his/her sinful life.  And, the Bible does in fact indicate that salvation can be lost (i.e. 2 Timothy 2:17-18; Hebrews 6:4-6).

In addition, the book’s evangelical flavor can be recognized by a number of the articles which deny baptismal regeneration and emphasize that “man must repent of his sins”, implying that salvation is somehow dependent on our repenting (255-256, italics mine).

Interestingly, in the article, “Reason and Faith,” Shawn Hayes concludes the article under the section, “The Place of Faith” with these words, “By faith we know some things are true because God said them.  In the case of faith, our certainty does not rest on our reasons, but rather, on our faith in God” (412).  However, faith does not rest on our faith (a near kin to fideism), but on the very Word of God in Christ (Romans 10:17).

The section, “Grace,” seems a bit overextended and straining, except for clarifying the evangelical understanding of grace, as Breidenbaugh describes grace as “one of God’s many communicable attributes” (254), and speaks of  two kinds of grace: 1) common (general, universal) and 2) elective (special, saving, regenerating).  Under the first kind of grace, he includes as headings physical provision, intelligence, society, and Christian events.  Under the second kind, elective grace, he includes as headings prevenient grace, efficacious grace, irresistible grace, and sufficient grace (255-257).  Not surprisingly, Breidenbaugh also includes “the divine sovereignty involved in salvation” (257).

Though I would recommend the book as at least an introduction to Christian apologetics and for many of the arguments contained therein, I would also encourage caution and discernment.  There is certainly an “evangelical ring” to the articles and to some extent, an inconsistency due to the various authors.  Generally, however, The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics is a helpful resource to have in one’s library.  The reasoning in the articles is, for the most part, sound and certainly understandable.  Yet reasoning and argumentation alone are not the last word—God’s Word is.  Knowing His Word, one will be quite prepared to proclaim the truth of the Christian religion.

We Confess the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Into this Name were you baptized.  This is who God is, Only God, the Only True God.  Besides this One, there is no other.  The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.  This is so not because it makes sense or because men in the early church made it up long ago, but because God has revealed Himself as Three Persons, yet One God.  What God has revealed, this we confess with the words, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.  It’s common to all because all Christians will believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.  It can be no other way.  This is the litmus test of who is of the Christian faith and who is not.  Though it is true that believing in Jesus is what saves, believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, I and My Father are one (John 10:30) and Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me (Mark 9:37).  The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

In other words, whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.  Whoever does not receive Jesus does not receive the Father either.  This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief in God’, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.  You cannot separate the two.  It is true that we distinguish between the Father and the Son, but you cannot have one without having the other.  This means that all who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, really do not have the true God, but worship a false god, a god of their own making, for they deny the divinity, the Godhead, of the Son.

Saying this does not sit well with a lot of people.  We live in an age where everything goes, and it does not matter what you believe, just do not ‘step on anyone’s toes’ or offend anyone, esp. in matters of religion.  As soon as distinctions are drawn and another is said to be wrong, lovelessness and intolerance are said to be at play.  The line has there been crossed.  Discrimination and righteous attitudes are said to be the culprit.  Because not everyone believes what you believe, what you believe might be your faith, but it is not mine.  Just because it might be true for you does not mean that it is true for me.

This notion has also crept into the church.  Just because the church says something, I do not have to believe it.  It is just the collective opinion of people anyway.  I can be a member of this church or of that church, but really, it does not matter what the church preaches and teaches.  I will believe what I want to believe.  It is not about the church anyway.  It is about what I believe.  That is what matters in the end.

Have you heard these things before?  Sound familiar?  It is the spirit of our times.  We minimize the Godhead according to our own personal opinions.  We sift through the teachings of the Bible, and pick and chose what we like or want to hear.  We go to church, not to encounter the Word of God, but to see how good the preacher sounds and catch up with others on their week.

But God speaks differently.  Church is where God’s Word and His gospel are proclaimed.  He has given the church what to speak and He has given you what to hear, both Law and Gospel, Law to the sinner and Gospel to the one sorry for his sin. God speaks the truth of our waywardness and the truth of our salvation in Christ.  He reveals what we are to do and how we are to do it.  He reveals that we are to believe Him and His Word, hear His Word, and receive life through His Means of Grace.  He has not given us to go our own way, but to follow His, for His is the way of life—the only way of life.

We learn this way of God through the books of the Old and New Testaments.  Where the preaching and teaching are according to these God inspired writings, there you will hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but raising up in the light of God’s forgiveness.  The law of God shows us our sin and how we stand condemned before God because of it.  The Gospel of God shows us our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s condemnation.  Christ stood in your place, becoming sin for you, that you might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The only True God does not leave you in the darkness of your sin.  And you are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.  God alone is the One who decides this.  God alone is the one who has decided this.  You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.  Your tendency to do this is the leaning of your nature since the fall in the garden, but this inclination to go your own way you are to continue to fight as God’s baptized child.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  This will not always what you want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved, and not that you feel good about yourselves or find momentary fulfillment.  God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way that God leads, the doctrine that He gives, the Word that He speaks, and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are for nothing less than your salvation.  He gives you all these things that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith.  Not only was Christ man.  He was also God, God for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, and even now through His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.  For your salvation did Christ die and live again.  This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation, second, that God desires this, and third, how God brings salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

 As to the first, the law of God is preached among you and in the world to condemn the world and your sinful nature because of sin.  Any lack of tolerance for sin is not first yours.  It is God’s.  The world does not want to hear such things.  They want to hear that it is ok to do whatever they want, regardless of who gets hurt, because, after all, life is all about ME and what I want.  But not willing to hear God’s Law, the world also will not hear of the God-man Jesus dying on a tree as the sacrifice for sinners.  They thus deny God on two counts: one, as to His law which condemns, and two, as to His Gospel, which saves.

The world doesn’t see that it needs salvation because it is not willing to admit how bad things really are.  And how bad things are must be revealed by God Himself, for we can see that things are at least not 100% good, but we think that this is sufficient.  God says otherwise, and this is the condemning thing.  God doesn’t just say, ‘try’ or ‘do better next time’.  To Him, one ‘slip up’ in thought, word, or deed is sufficient for an eternal fall.  This is the problem, because none are even at the least minutely perfect in this regard.  God demands what we cannot fulfill.

We are at a crossroads with only One to help.  This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.  God reveals this Gospel in His book.  Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.  This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven, sending His Spirit, preaching His Word, giving body and blood in bread and wine, and baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.  And this life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.  For all people Christ died and gave His life.  The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.  Far from it!  God does care and He has made Himself known, and He does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.  Not all this, because not all take God at His Word.  Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: as Savior, not as Judge; as redeemer, not as the one whom we owe; as our God, apart from whom is no other; and the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Writ.  For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31).  There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling it for us.  There, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.  There, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and sacrament, giving life where there once was only death; giving health where there once was only sickness; giving knowledge where there once was only ignorance; and giving wisdom where there once was only foolishness.  There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, Going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20).  The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s authority is now given to the church, the authority of God to proclaim the truth of sin and forgiveness, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.  This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is kept, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.  There also will the Triune God be.  Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.  Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.  You can’t have One without the Other.  There is no God without the Son.  There is no Spirit apart from the Son.  There is no faith apart from the Spirit.  And there is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are kept true and distinct, and God undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

In order that salvation in Christ be made known, our Lord sends His church to proclaim the truth of His Word, even the truth of the Holy Triune God.  This truth is not of human origin.  It cannot be understood by rational formula or common sense.  Though it is true, all will not accept it.  It is only by faith that we believe, faith according to what God has already revealed in His Word, and faith according to what God now makes known to you.  It matters not what part of the world you were born in, or what the majority of the beliefs are in your neighborhood.  The truth of God is true for all people because it is true.  This is what God reveals in the only Holy Book, the Bible, Holy because it is the very Word of God given to man, that God make Himself known, that man believe in His Son and so be saved.  Amen.

“It gets better”?

Having seen a note again on It Gets Better, I can’t help but further lament the current condition today’s society.  The false hope that well intentioned people are giving astounds me.  Surely bullying, threatening, name calling, beating, persecution, and physical and emotional abuse of another, regardless of sex, ‘orientation’ or religion, all fall under God’s just judgment, as does all sinful behavior.

What we fail to realize, however, is that it is just as sinful to tolerate, advocate, and support that which is contrary to God’s Word and will.  Yes, we certainly do want to help and serve others as neighbors to all in need, even the lowliest of the low, the social outcasts, and the sinners all (1 John 4:11-12, Note: John is talking about the love of God through Jesus, not unconditional tolerance and acceptance of that which God calls sin).  Yet love of neighbor does not mean supporting the sinful behavior.  Love of neighbor does not condone the infliction of any kind of pain or duress on any other.  Nor does love of neighbor advocate speaking untruths to secure sinners in their sin.

The latter is exactly what  the advance of It Gets Better does.  It, and the participants, advocate and encourage sin.  In addition, they contribute to the false notion that sin does not have consequences.  Sin does (Romans 6:23).  It leads to death-eternal death.  There is only One who gives true and everlasting hope, now and through eternity—Jesus Christ!

The It Gets Better campaign tries to encourage those who are suffering (as a result of others and their own decisions and behavior) that things will “get better.”  But this is a false hope.  For the sinner who remains in their sin, the end will not be pretty.  Though life in this world may improve a little as a result of advocacy, the acceptance of sin, the cessation of struggle, in the end, it will not.  This is because the world can only offer limited hope and limited help.  Only Jesus gives hope and help which is unlimited and never ending (2 Corinthians 4:18).

God does not promise that things will “get better.”  In fact, just the opposite does He say will be, as exampled also by this campaign, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

This is precisely what we see happening with It Gets Better and campaigns like it. Encouraging sin does not and will not make things better.  Nor can we sinners end all problems of society, no matter how hard we try.  God does command that we love our neighbor and defend him and all in need (also the unborn, the aged, and all who suffer), but we do not do this to improve society, but to care for one another, and because they have need.  Man can help us only a little, and only temporarily.  Only God can give the help, now and eternally, that all sinners need—through Jesus Christ.

Rather than giving a false hope of fleeting improvement which is full of lies and hypocrisy, speak the truth, in love, (according to God’s Word) that one not only be confident of God’s grace in this life, but into eternity.

The Bible and the Gospel

The following is a portion of a recent letter by Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, referencing the new book Begin:

“When I was a public school teacher in Australia, I remember a ministry group that cam and addressed a school assembly.  They handed every student a copy of the New Testament, plus the Psalms and Proverbs.

“In one sense, I was thrilled to see students receiving God’s Word—but in another sense, I sighed.

“You see, I had already experienced students challenging my Christian faith because of what they were taught about evolution and millions of years in their textbooks.  These teachings were an enormous stumbling block to students at the assembly from even listening to the gospel.  What they had been taught in school undermined biblical authority—to them, the Bible, and its gospel message, could no longer be trusted!

“I sighted when these students received the New Testament because they did not receive Genesis chapters 1-11 that are the foundational history to fully understanding the gospel.  In fact, this history is ultimately foundational to every biblical doctrine.

“Back then, I certainly understood why the New Testament was handed out: the gospel is clearly presented.  However, I also understood from my day-to-day experience that for students, God’s Word had been shown not to be true in the Old Testament (particularly Genesis)—so why should they even bother to read the New Testament?”

 

Question…How much emphasis do we place on the authority of the Bible in order to clearly testify of God’s grace in Christ?  In asking such a question, my intention is not at all, in any way, to cast doubt on God’s imprimatur on the Holy Bible.  The Bible is indeed God’s infallible Word, no question about it!  Yet, I cannot prove this to you or to anyone.

I can say that the Bible is authoritative, inspired, infallible, God’s Word, without error (inerrant), and nothing but the truth (so it is!, and I will), but I cannot prove this to you.  Nor can I convince you, or anyone for that matter, to believe it.  Only God can do that (John 3:5-6; 1 Corinthians 2:14).  Emphasizing the authority of the Bible as God’s Word will not at all ‘change’ anyone from a nonbeliever to a believer.  Only Christ’s Word does this.

Making efforts to show how the Old Testament and the New Testaments are true are indeed helpful, but the nonbeliever will never believe as a result of ‘evidence.’  St. Paul says that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).

Here is where Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis demonstrate a shortcoming.  Trying to proving the Bible to be true (though the Bible is true indeed) will not convince anyone of its truthfulness.  Nor will acknowledging the truth of Holy Scripture lead to salvation.

Apologetics indeed does have its place.  But believing biblical authority does not then mean forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.  These are only through faith in Jesus.  Ham and Answers in Genesis seem to be coming close to recasting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to believing Scriptural authority.

In other words, a real danger exists of changing the Gospel, the Good News, of sins forgiven through faith in Christ as the only means of salvation to believing in Biblical authority as the means of salvation.

Played out, then, it is not faith in Jesus alone that would save, but faith in the authority of the Bible.  Answers in Genesis, seems to be implying this.

I certainly agree that the teaching of “evolution and millions of years” is eroding the faith of Christians (young and old) everywhere.  And what many are taught in school undermines biblical authority.  Of these truths, I have no doubts.

But to say that a “getting back to Scriptural authority” will save the day, to this I cannot agree.  It will not “save the day.”  Nor will telling people that the Bible is true, though it is.

Rather than trying to convince people that the Bible is true according to experience or by showing evidence for the purpose of convincing them merely that the Bible is true, God’s way of “evangelism” is simply to proclaim His Word.  God’s way of turning hardened sinners from unbelief to belief is by speaking the “no holds barred” Law, convincing sinners of their sin, not by the manner of the preacher, but according to God’s Holy Word.  If this the hearer will not hear, then the Gospel they will not hear either.

In other words, instead of trying to convince unbelievers (or even weak Christians) that the Bible is true, how about just speaking according to the Lord’s Word and having that Word have its way with them.  If they hear, then they will seek mercy and kindness.  To them, then, we can immediately speak the word of forgiveness that they (and we) so desperately need to hear.  If they believe the Gospel, then salvation is theirs.  But believing in the authority of the Bible does not save anyone.  Only faith in Jesus does.

This demonstrates a main difference among Christians, a difference that cannot be ignored.  Though I certainly appreciate and rejoice in all the resources and work that Answers makes available and does, a cautionary word is in order.  It is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings about salvation.  God’s Holy Word does convince of this truth—not evidence, not reasonable arguments, and not “believing” that Genes 1-11 is the foundational history to understanding the Gospel.  According to the Bible, salvation does not depend on believing the latter to be true.  Salvation, however, does depend on what one believes concerning Jesus—who He is and what He did for you!

It is, I believe, a difference in starting point.  Answers seems to suggest that if one believes the authority of the Bible, one will believe in the Gospel.  However, should one believe the Gospel according to Scripture, then one cannot but believe the Bible, should such faith be consistent with that Scripture, for all who will truly acknowledge and believe in Christ will truly and acknowledge and believe His Word (Luke 16:29-31; John 5:24; 8:47).

Such faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it must be said, does not come from believing that the Bible is authoritative for faith and life.  Such faith in Jesus Christ comes from God working faith in the heart through the very Word of God that is proclaimed; God working by means of His Holy Law which speaks against sin and our disobedience, and God proclaiming the Good News of sins forgiven in Christ.

This does not all mean that all who hear the Gospel will believe, nor that all who hear the Law will repent.  We do not know who all will believe and all who will not.  That is not the question.  Rather, God gives His people, the church, the task of preaching against sin and preaching Christ.  Where she does this faithfully, God will bless.  Where she does not, there confusion will remain, and there, God’s people will seek other emphases than the Word alone for creating and sustaining the Christian faith.

Should Christians not celebrate Easter?

Is the Date of Easter of Pagan Origin? – Answers in Genesis.

Various religious groups (i.e. Jehovah’s Witnesses, United Church of God) deny the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus by Christians for a number of reasons.

However, the apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Colosse, says: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.  Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations — ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men?  These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:16-23).

Christians are free to worship together on any day, especially for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.  The issue is not whether the celebration itself was “christianized” from pagan festivals, or “replaced” them, as according to some, if that is the case at all.  The issue is the content of such celebration.

Founded on the resurrection of Christ, there is no reason Christians should not celebrate Easter, for Christ’s resurrection from the dead surely means that the Christian faith is not futile and that we are no longer in our sins (1 Corinthians 15).

This is most certainly a day to celebrate, and rejoice in, even every day!

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