CHAPTER 33 // THE GOSPEL OF JOHN ≠ THE REST OF THE BIBLE


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The Rest of the Bible

I love the Gospel of John. I love it so much that I had the first six chapters memorized at one time. I could recite them straight through and did publicly once for a church in my area. The gospel of John is so well thought out. It’s simple but powerful. It’s precise and consistent. The language is controlled so well that a word used at the beginning of the book will still mean the same thing at the end of the book. John limited his vocabulary to about 600 Greek words. Elementary students of biblical Greek first study John because of all of this.

It’s not just the style but the content that is amazing. It’s not a random smattering of Jesus’ actions and sayings. It’s a curated collection with a singular purpose. John is so precise in his purpose that he even included a purpose statement in John 20:30-31.

And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.[1]

With these powerful words, John tells us what his gospel if for. It’s designed to lead people to salvation. Its specific purpose is that a person can become convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. By believing that they can have eternal life. That is the salvation message. Although there are themes of discipleship in the Gospel of John, that is not the primary purpose, Salvation is.

the Bible is like a tool box in some ways. If someone wants wisdom, they ought to read the works of Solomon. If someone wants to get inspired by the immensity of God, he ought to go through Job’s conversations with the almighty, or David’s psalms of praise. If someone wants to know about future events, they ought to read Daniel or Revelation. However, if someone wants to know how to be Saved, John’s gospel is the single most important place to go. If you are comfortable sending someone to proverbs for wisdom, then you ought not balk at the idea of sending them to John for salvation. You wouldn’t use a screw driver to drive a nail if you had a hammer available. So, we ought to use the tool that John made available to us when we are doing evangelism.

I have often proposed this idea and it has been met with debate. The one who opposes may say, “I prefer to consider the whole counsel of scripture.” I usually think, but don’t say, “Matthew 27:5 says, Judas hanged himself… and Jesus said go and do likewise in Luke 10:37.” However, we don’t go hang ourselves because we understand that that is a misuse of the Bible. We acknowledge that the Bible is meant to be used a certain way. We understand that certain books are used for certain purposes. John tells us what his purpose is.

Trying to lead someone to gain salvation with some other book than John’s Gospel is like using that screwdriver to drive a nail. It might could be done, but it’s not the best way. John intends his gospel to be a stand alone work that someone who knows nothing about Jesus can read and get salvation. A person can go from zero, to immortal by reading and believing what’s in the Gospel of John. In that sense, it stands above all of the rest of scripture for the purpose of evangelism.

This brings up a valuable question. What is the purpose of the rest of the Bible? We already said that other biblical books have specific purposes but is there an overall category that the rest of the Bible can fit into? Yes, there is. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us what it is.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.[2]

This could be called the purpose statement for the whole Bible. Do you notice any important words that might indicate what category the rest of the Bible falls into? The statement ends with, “that the man of God may be… equipped for every good work.” Good works are always connected to discipleship.

Therefore, the entire Bible has the purpose of equipping people for discipleship. In fact, even the Gospel of John fits this category. The gospel of John can strengthen and encourage the disciple, even though it’s primary purpose is evangelism.

Yet, The whole Bible is designed for discipleship, while only John is designed specifically for evangelism. In other words, the purpose statement of the whole Bible applies to John, but the purpose statement of John does not apply to the Whole Bible. Deuteronomy is not a good place to go to explain the free gift of eternal life. Even Matthew, Mark, and Luke are not focused on evangelism, but instead discipleship. That’s because most of Jesus’ ministry was focused on discipleship, and teaching his disciples to be disciple makers. That’s why it was required for John to hand pick instances where Jesus explained salvation specifically. Without John’s gospel, we would have a very hard time understanding what salvation is. However, we would have a good idea of what discipleship is since the whole Bible is devoted to it.

This means that unbelievers should first read John. If they become believers, then they should continue to read John and begin to read the rest of the Bible. Until someone has believed, John should be the focus. That’s why, in my apologetics ministry, I always focus on verses from John primarily. That is the first stop on the journey to belief and thus salvation.

As we’ve seen, not only in this chapter but this whole book as well, Salvation and Discipleship have a clear distinction between them. Until my attention was drawn to the distinction I did not understand the Bible in its fullness. It’s the awareness of this distinction that brought the Bible alive for me. This just didn’t make sense until I saw the difference between salvation and discipleship.

I can’t thank you enough for reading this book. I hope and pray that the information here will lead to a better understanding of what the Bible has to say, both about gaining salvation and living in discipleship. If you haven’t yet believed in Jesus for eternal life, I hope that you will soon. If you are a believer, I hope you will accept the mission of committed discipleship. There is a great reward for those who do, both in this life and the life to come.

[1] John 20:30–31.

[2] 2 Timothy 3:16–17.

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CHAPTER 25 // SPIRIT BAPTISM ≠ WATER BAPTISM

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Spirit and Water Baptism

A number of years ago I was invited to preach a series of evangelistic events in Latvia. It’s a beautiful little country which found its freedom after the fall of the Soviet Union. By the time I went, it had warmed to the gospel message, and many young people were ready to believe. The trip lasted about two weeks. We focused our efforts on a small rural town called Cesis. Through public talks and Bible-studies with locals, twenty-one Latvians believed in Jesus. In excitement, they wanted to get baptized right away. We could hardly be more thrilled to see the fruit.

Our mission team approached the local church with whom we had partnered. The healthiest way to get these new believers to grow would be to have them get connected with the church. However, to our chagrin the church leadership refused to baptize them. They demanded that the new believers attend church for a year before they be baptized. They thought it would be inappropriate to baptize young people who hadn’t yet proved they were saved. Apparently the way that they were supposed to prove they were saved was with good works and a year’s worth of church attendance. We were shocked, and I did my best to explain the mistake in their understanding. Ultimately we baptized the new believers ourselves when we saw that the church would not change their mind. The leadership of that church not only misunderstood the distinction between salvation and discipleship, but even the role that baptism is supposed to play.

Baptism is an ancient tradition that dates back to before Christian times. The root word means, dip. This simple meaning makes it seem as if the word could never be misunderstood and misapplied. Despite its apparent simplicity, there is great confusion about what the role and purpose of baptism is in the life of a believer.

There are at least two main theological uses of the word baptize that are significant to us. In this chapter we will explore the difference between Spirit baptism and water baptism. Let’s find out about Spirit baptism from 1 Corinthians 12:13.

For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.⁠1

There is a word capitalized in the first line of the verse. Do you see it? Spirit starts with a capital S because it’s talking about a specific spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit that does the work of Spirit Baptism. As one of the three person’s of the trinity, the Holy Spirit has the authority and ability to bring the believer to life at the moment of their salvation.

This verse shows us that no matter the ethnic background, or social status, the believer has been immersed in, and made to drink the same Spirit. The effect of this Spirit baptism is that the believer has become part of one body.

What body? Obviously the church is in view here, when he later says,

Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.⁠2

It’s as if we are organs who get implanted in the body of Christ when we experience Spirit baptism. We become parts of the church. This means that we should play a part, and work together with the other members of the church. However, the fact that some members don’t work well together is exactly why he had need to give this teaching.

Paul daftly weaves this image of a body which is knit together by the spirit, one organ at a time. Spirit baptism, which happens at salvation by the power of God, makes that possible. So, Spirit baptism is not something that must be earned or worked for, it’s part of the present that we receive when we get everlasting life. Likewise, someone can’t get unbaptized anymore than someone can get unsaved. It’s a irrevocable event. Paul  explained from another angle in Galatians 3:26-27.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.⁠3

The condition for being a son, in this sense, is faith in Christ. This echos what John 1:12 tells us. After establishing that he goes on to explain that, “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” This means that there is no condition outside of faith to have this type of baptism. When one believes in Jesus for everlasting life he experiences the Spirit baptism, and by this act he also has put on Christ. It carries with the image of being clothed with Christ, or even covered by him. Thus, the eternal punishment of God will pass over and not effect the one who is covered with Christ in this manner.

Spirit baptism is connected to salvation, and happens automatically at the moment of faith in Christ. However, there is another event which carries a similar name that every Christian should undergo, but is not automatic. Water baptism is one of the main things that Jesus instructed his followers to do. Passages that teach a person how to have everlasting life do not present water baptism as a requirement for salvation.⁠4 Though, anyone who wishes to be a committed disciple is expected to take this first public step.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 28-19-20 to see the difference.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”⁠5

The first thing that we notice about this verse is that it’s a description of how to make disciples. We can’t disconnect the instructions found within from discipleship. There are certainly those who have placed their faith in Christ, who have not fulfilled the command of Jesus to undergo water baptism. In fact, the church where I grew up at had a piano player who was deathly afraid of water who never underwent water baptism. While someone can be saved apart from water baptism it would be hard to call a person who refuses baptism a disciple by Jesus’ definition.

Water baptism is exactly what it sounds like. The word, in Greek, means to immerse in water. Before Christianity, baptism was an act of conversion used for Gentiles converting to Judaism, it means initiating people to the faith.⁠6 However, when Jesus instructs his followers to baptize others as disciples, he’s shifting the focus of what baptize would have meant to his hearers at the time. Although, new converts who wished to be initiated into the Jewish faith would be baptized, they would not be baptized into discipleship. That’s because, before Jesus only Rabbis made disciples. Discipleship was limited to a handful of students. The Rabbi would make disciples by fashioning his pupils to be like himself.

Jesus shifts the focus here and instead teaches that they were to make disciples, fashioned not in their own image, but instead their master’s. That all believers, even gentiles were supposed to become disciples was unique to Jesus. Secondly the idea that baptism would be initiation into discipleship was a fresh notion. All of this represents a shift from the pre-Christian meaning of discipleship and baptism.

He further explains the expectations after water baptism when he says, “…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” Therefore, the expectation for disciples is observance. The word observe in English can mean either to notice, or to obey. He means to obey in this context. Thus it could be said that water baptism is only the first step on a lifelong journey of discipleship.

Baptism, as it stands today is a public expression of what has already happened privately. Water baptism is a visual representation of the invisible Spirit baptism. All those who are saved have experienced Spirit baptism, but if one seeks to be a disciple, he will also obey Christ and publicly be baptized in water.  Water baptism, like all the acts and works of a disciple, has no power to save from Hell. Being baptized in water is all about obeying Christ, and going public before mankind.

In this chapter we’ve seen that Spirit baptism automatically takes place at the moment salvation occurs. Water baptism is a voluntary act that publicly represents the new birth experienced by the believer.

1 1 Corinthians 12:13.

2 Corinthians 12:27.

3 Galations 3:26–27.

4 John 1:12, 3:16, 3:36, 5:24, 6:47, 11:26

5 Matthew 28:19–20.

6 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Mt 28:19–20.

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CHAPTER 24 // POSITIONAL RIGHTEOUSNESS ≠ PRACTICAL RIGHTEOUSNESS

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Positional and Practical Righteousness

We give gifts to people we like. I generally withhold gift giving from those with whom I have no fellowship or closeness. However, God decided to offer us a gift when we did not deserve it. In fact, there are those who will accept the gift and totally take advantage of His grace by not living a single day in pursuit of righteousness.

In the last chapter we looked at  Romans 4:5 as part of our discovery of what it means to be justified by faith. In this chapter we will use the same verse to explore the difference between positional righteousness and practical righteousness.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,⁠1

All people who come to Christ for salvation are justified at a moment when they are ungodly. In an instant God changes the core nature of the person. In judicial terms the new believer has positional righteous. This status is such that they will never be more or less righteous before God than the moment that they believe. The saved person has entered an eternal state where Christ’s righteousness is credited to us.⁠2  It’s as if we have been given access to his righteousness credit card, and there is no limit.

Some moan that this concept encourages some to abuse God’s grace. However, it was Paul who said it. In case we become tempted to use this as a license to sin he discourages such thought when he says, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not!”⁠3 He further warns of the heavy consequence when a believer does not work,  when he says they will suffer loss at the judgment seat of Christ.⁠4

Despite his provisos and warnings, it doesn’t change the fact that he openly admits in Romans 4:5 that someone can have salvation completely without works before or after the moment he receives eternal life. The image of a person getting such a costly gift for free, and then doing nothing to show gratitude raises our ire. Though we must be cautious that we do not mistake our sinful jealousy for limits on grace that do not exist. Will some abuse this free gift? Of course, but grace-abusers can’t change the nature of the gospel. Righteousness is given as an inalienable position in Christ for the one who believes in Him. Positional righteousness is a finalized status of the believer.

It shouldn’t surprise you that the meaning of the word righteousness has some elasticity in the way that it can be translated. Although it often is used to describe positional righteousness for those that are saved, there are plenty of times when it’s referred to in reference to discipleship. In this context we call it practical righteousness.

Practical righteousness can be seen in 1 Timothy 6:11, when Paul says.

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.⁠5

In the preceding section, Paul is teaching his young disciple, Timothy, that he should resist the pull of wealth and riches. He follows that with these wise instructions. The list in which righteousness falls here gives us the best indication as to what type Paul is referring.

Paul says, “pursue righteousness.” He can’t be talking about the kind of righteousness someone receives when they become a believer because it is not something to be pursued. To pursue positional righteousness would be the same as working for salvation, which negates one’s ability to have it. Where positional righteousness  is received without effort or work by the one who believes in Jesus for everlasting life, this type of righteousness has to be sought with practical steps. Therefore, he’s talking about a righteousness that focuses on daily living as a disciple.

We’ve already discussed how it is technically possible for a believer to do no work, but once again Paul is warning against that sinful mindset and lifestyle. He instructs his student to chase after such fine things as these, among which is practical righteousness. The verse and its context gives virtually no further instruction on how to do what he’s been told, but that is because Paul views Timothy as a mature believer. This acts as a reminder to stay strong and is no new lesson for  the well seasoned Timothy. The verdict is that godly living is in view when the disciple is encouraged to pursue righteousness.

These two verses serve to show us the clear distinction between positional righteousness, which is what all believers have in Christ, and practical righteousness, which is what all disciples should seek on a daily basis.

1 Romans 4:5.

2 Romans 4:24

3 Romans 6:1–2.

4 1 Corinthians 3:15

5 1 Timothy 6:11.

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CHAPTER 23 // JUSTIFIED BY FAITH ≠ JUSTIFIED BY WORKS

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Justified by Faith or Works?

In college one justifies his status as a current student in different ways to different individuals. The professor needs to see an official role sheet with the students name on it to consider them a current student. However, fellow classmates will believe one is a legitimate student of the university if they simply attend class. Those classmates don’t have access to the role sheet, so they can only know what they see the student doing. In the same way, a student that doesn’t attend class is considered an official student by the professor who has him on his role sheet. However, fellow students would not consider the absent one a student if they’ve never seen them in class. So, if one want to justify his status as a student to his professor he just has to be on the sheet. However, if I want to justify his status to both his professor and classmates, he has to be on the role sheet and attend class. This shows that there are different justification methods for different individuals. We will discover in this chapter that the same is true in our spiritual lives. Where being on the role sheet is connected to faith, attending class is connected to works.

Justification is most often used to describe the legal status of a person before God. A justified person is a saved person under most uses that we find in the New Testament. By and large, seeing justification as a synonym for salvation works to interpret most Biblical texts most of time. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, which is what we are going to uncover in this chapter, as we consider the difference between justified by faith, and justified by works.

Let’s start with Paul’s description of justification in Romans 3:20.

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.⁠1

No one is going to be saved from Hell by obeying the law. Anyone who happens to posses a physical body of flesh is stuck in this terrible dilemma. We can’t attain salvation by works. Paul continues a few verses later.

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.⁠2

I almost hear a collective sigh of relief at that verse. Paul built a palpable tension as he goes explains that no one can be saved by work. He lets the tension release with this simple idea. We are justified by faith not works. Salvation comes by that which is internal to man, not external. Faith alone in Christ alone brings eternal life. In case we missed it, he clarifies with probably the most powerful statement of Grace ever uttered in Romans 4:5.

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,⁠3

Not only is faith the agent that makes salvation possibly, a person doesn’t even need to work. Someone can believe on Him and just sit on the couch. Still he will be saved. Obviously there will be consequences, but according to Paul the consequences are not a loss of salvation.

Justification is so clearly defined by these three verses that if we closed our Bible here, we would have a singular vision of what justification is. It’s connected to salvation, and happens as a one time event. When a person believes in Jesus for everlasting life, they have been eternally justified, and will remain so regardless of how they perform in their Christian life. Flip a few pages over, and it seems that James is singing a different tune.

James ostensibly disagrees with Paul’s powerful claim, or otherwise has a different meaning for the word Justified in mind.  Many have struggled to harmonize James’ and Paul’s perspectives without success. However, when we understand that there is more than one type of justification the apparent differences come together. Let’s take a look at James 2:21-24.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

In the New Testament, the word Justified is used almost universally in connection to salvation. Here we find a break from the most common use of the word. Although, some have argued that James is claiming Abraham found a path to salvation through works, that is certainly not what James is saying. Even his own words a few verses later contradict that idea.

As we seek to understand how James could say that Abraham was declared righteous by his works, we should ask the question, who has declared him righteous? For one, God declared him righteous. However, God declared him righteous because of his faith not because of his works.⁠4 In fact, this was such a well known fact, James’ readers would have heard those famous words ringing in their ears. Even Paul weighs in on it when he said,

For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.⁠5

So, Abraham’s justification by works was not one that won him boasting rights before God. Yet we might ask again, “If God doesn’t declare him righteous because of his works, who would?” Well, other people, for one. God didn’t need to see Abraham’s actions to know that his faith was genuine.⁠6 However, other people who were under Abraham’s influence did not have the luxury of reading his heart and mind. If Abraham’s faith was going to be proved genuine to the people around him, it would have to make an appearance. Faith that doesn’t act doesn’t cease to be faith, but it is dead as James has already said in this chapter.

Could Abraham’s fellow man recognize a dead faith? Certainly not. However, they saw his living faith like a altar fire ablaze on a mountain side. So Abraham was not Justified before God because of his actions, but those works proved that he had faith to his fellow men and women. He was justified by his works to mankind, and that includes us today. By this we see that his salvation came by faith alone, but his credibility among those he lead and those who read his story came by his works. James goes on to explain,

Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

What does it mean for faith to be made perfect? Being a perfect disciple does not mean that there are no failures along the way, but that the student follows the steps of discipleship toward perfection. In fact, The Greek word translated as perfect suggests development and maturation.⁠7 Even Jesus told the rich young ruler that he could be perfect if he followed his discipleship instructions.⁠8

Obviously faith being perfect can’t mean that the disciple is completely without sin. Read through Abraham’s life. He had a number of shortcomings and sins that he continued to trip over. None-the-less James uses this concept of a faith being perfected to illustrate Abraham’s continual movement toward spiritual growth.  James continues his idea as he says,

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.⁠9

Notice in this verse that there are two justifications going on. It’s not one justification that comes by faith-plus-works. Instead, it’s two separate and distinct justifications. The first is Justification before God which comes by faith alone since he says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  The next sentence begins with the word And letting us know that what comes next is a related but separate idea. The second is Justification before man which comes by works, since it says he was called a friend of God.

We should ask, who called Abraham a friend of God? Obviously God called him that, but what’s in focus here is that other people called him, “a friend of God.” The fact that the statement is in third person tells us so. For if James was repeating God’s statement it would be rendered, “Abraham My friend.”⁠10 Instead the third person perspective tells us that it’s peers who recognized Abraham’s close relationship with God. And how did they know? Because of his works. Thus, Abraham carried the title, “a friend of God,” among the people that he lead and influenced. That’s why scripture mentions it multiple times.⁠11

In previous chapters we’ve talked about what it takes to be a friend of God? In this phrase we hear an echo of Jesus’ words.

You are My friends if you do whatever I command you… for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.⁠12

The disciple becomes a friend of God by obedience, as James himself explains only a few chapters later.⁠13 Therefore, we find that there are two types of justification. One has to do with faith alone in God’s promise. This justification is what Paul often used to describe the event of salvation. The other Justification is one before our peers, in which our works validate our faith to them. When we follow Christ with fervor, it leaves those around us no other explanation, but that our faith is real. Justification before men has to do with obeying God’s commands, and doing the work of discipleship.

1 Romans 3:20.

2 Romans 3:28.

3 Romans 4:5.

4 Genesis 15:6, Galatinos 3:6, Romans 4:3

5 Romans 4:2.

6 Jeremiah 17:10

7 Zane C. Hodges, “The Epistle of James,” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 1121.

8 Matthew 19:21

9 James 2:21–24.

10 Isaiah 41:8

11 2 Chr. 20:7; Is. 41:8, James 2:21-24

12 John 15:14–15.

13 James 4:4

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CHAPTER 22 // POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION ≠ PRACTICAL SANCTIFICATION

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POSITIONAL and PRACTICAL SANCTIFICATION

The word sanctification is uncommon. I’ve rarely heard it used in casual conversation except when the words, what is precede it. In this chapter we are going to look at the difference between positional sanctification and practical sanctification. Before we understand the difference, we need to get a grip on this heavy and rare noun.

The Greek word that is translated sanctify can be also translated make holy. Persons who are sanctified are either made holy once and for all, or they are in a process of being made holy. To discover which type of sanctification, whether once or a process, the context must be considered. Let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 1:2. Paul says this in the opening of his letter.

To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:⁠1

The words “to be” do not appear in the  Greek.⁠2 Thus, Paul is calling his readers saints. It’s not a future hope that they are waiting on, but a present reality. This is valuable because being a saint is the fruition of being sanctified. Saint and sanctified come from the same root word, which in Latin is sanctus. If someone is a saint, it means that they have been sanctified at some point in the past.

Before you get the idea that the Corinthians were goodie-two-shoes, you have to understand that the church at Corinth was full of sin. In fact, it may be the most sin-filled church of all those mentioned in the Bible. A quick read through the letters that Paul sent to the church there gives a vivid image of how worldly these believers were. Why then, does Paul call them saints? How could they be made holy, if they are so sinful?

Easy. Jesus. All those who have believed in Jesus for eternal life are saints in a technical sense. Some call this forensic sanctification, which is to say, “it holds up in court.” Theses sinful saints have been made holy in terms of judgment and punishment. Believers can rest confidently in the fact that they will not have to stand before the final judgment that leads to Hell.⁠3 In that sense they are saints. That’s why we call this use, positional sanctification. Like positional forgiveness, positional sanctification is not a process but a one time event in which the believer is cleansed. Thus, this type of sanctification stands as the believer’s holy identity for all time, regardless of his performance post-belief.

There is another type of sanctification, one not directly connected to salvation, but connected to discipleship. Let’s look at Acts 20:32 to get an understanding of practical sanctification.

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.⁠4

Taken on its own, it would be easy to miss the difference between this and positional sanctification. However, there are a handful of clues that tell us that Paul was talking about the process of sanctification rather than a single even sanctification.

Notice that Paul says, “build you up.” If the foundation is salvation in Christ, a concept that Paul himself addressed in 1 Corinthians 3, then building up would have to mean spiritual growth. Therefore discipleship is in view. A second clue is the word, “inheritance.” As we’ve seen in previous chapters, inheritance is most often tied to the reward that disciples receive in this life and the next. The biggest indicator that Paul is talking about practical sanctification comes only two verses earlier.

men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.⁠5

You should be well trained by now to notice our trigger words. Disciple appears in the previous verses, which tells us that we are talking about practical sanctification and not positional. Secondly, only a few verses later he says,

“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this…”⁠6

Yet another one of our trigger words appears here, labor, sometimes translated work. The context clues us in. Sanctification can be connected to discipleship and certainly is here. Let’s build a definition of practical sanctification by looking at John 17:17,19. In Jesus’ famous prayer the night he was arrested he requested this for his disciples.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth… And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.⁠7

This if very telling. If both Jesus and the disciples who already had everlasting life could be sanctified, then this reference cannot be talking about the act of salvation. Here, Jesus points to the sanctifying power of truth that comes from God. The best way to understand this sense of practical sanctification could be described as being set apart.

Jesus set himself apart from the world, allowing himself to be different so that he could accomplish his father’s work. In the same way he expects his disciples to be set apart from the world, so that they can accomplish his work as well. It is by the word of God, and it’s truth that we are able to experience this practical sanctification. Another very clear picture of this kind of practical sanctification comes in 2 Timothy 2:21.

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.⁠8

The purpose of this practical sanctification is obvious from the above verse. Those who engage in practical sanctification are useful for accomplishing the Master’s work. Paul tells us in another place that we are created for good works,⁠9 and here we find that in order to be prepared for  every good work, we must cleanse ourselves from dishonorable things. By this we become approved workers in Christ.

We’ve discovered that positional sanctification is the saint-status that all believers have when they believe in Jesus for everlasting life. Practical sanctification is the continual process that a disciple pursues on his journey toward becoming more holy. Practical sanctification prepares us for every good work.

1 1 Corinthians 1:2.

2 Dwight L. Hunt, “The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians,” in The Grace New Testament Commentary, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), 711.

3 John 5:24

4 Acts 20:32.

5 Acts 20:30.

6 Acts 20:35.

7 John 17:17–19.

8 2 Timothy 2:20–21.

9 Ephesians 2:10

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CHAPTER 21 // TAKE A BATH ≠ WASH YOUR FEET

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Take a bath or wash my feet?

For the first dozen summers that I can remember, I rarely wore shoes. Playing all day in the yard would cover the bottoms of my bare feet with a thick layer of dark grime. Even when I had started the day with a shower, there hardly a summertime call for dinner that I didn’t have to get the garden hose and wash my feet.

In this I have a familiar connection with the ancient world. Shoes generally consisted of opened toed strapping, and travel was, by and large, on foot. It was common to need a little water to wash the day’s accumulation from them when entering a house. Jesus and his disciples were accustomed to this need.

Jesus uses the analogy of feet washing to teach a very important lesson. In this chapter we will discover the difference between the spiritual meaning of taking a bath and washing our feet. Although, there are a few references to feet being washed in the New Testament, there is no narrative more famous than the one we find in John 13:5-10.

He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”⁠1

A flabbergasted Peter is concerned and confused by what Jesus decides to do. He can’t seem to grasp why the Lord, the great Messiah, would want to wash his feet. After protesting, Peter discovers that skipping this washing would have a big consequence. Jesus says, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Based on the context and the Greek, the meaning here is not one which has salvation in view. Instead Jesus could be understood to be saying that Peter would be giving up his place among the disciples and forfieghting his portion. There was much to be gained by being a disciples and Peter quickly changed his tune. Basically what follows is Peter’s request for a full sponge bath. He says, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

In trying to compensate for his ignorance Peter overshoots and reaches too far. This is an important point on which Jesus rests his teaching. We know, from Jesus’ words, that the washing of the feet is connected to discipleship. What’s fascinating is that Jesus makes a clear distinction between foot washing and bathing.

Jesus says, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”⁠2 Here we find that Jesus’ foot washing ceremony represents actions that must be taken if someone wants to take part in a life of discipleship. However, a bath is something that all the disciples, except Judas, had already done and never needed to do again.

In the previous chapter we discussed the meaning of positional forgiveness and daily forgiveness. We hear a clear and resounding echo of those concepts in Jesus’ teaching. The bath represents salvation. We know that that Peter had already become a saved believer by this point.⁠3 Now Jesus identifies 11 of the twelve as having become so as well. He then explains that the bath is a one time event. It need not take place a second time.

I have heard many over zealous preachers attempt to convince a congregation that they may, in fact, be unsaved. I’ve even heard fringe candidates claim that you could be saved at one time, but then lose that saved status. Jesus rejects this logic when he claims that a bath need only happen once. We discover, therefore that salvation is a one time event. Not only does it not need to be done twice, it is impossible for salvation to happen a second time. Certainly there are many who have wasted years of their lives wondering and fretting that they may not be saved. We should take comfort in the fact that it happens once, and then it never needs to take place again.

However, there is something that we must do on a regular basis, washing our feet. As we mentioned before, the washing of the feet has to do with taking part in a life of discipleship, and the reward attached. This lesson that Christ delivered was particularly important at this moment for the disciples.

For, that same night he would be arrested, and all but one would abandon him. Peter would deny that he knew him thrice. In light of this, it would be easy for the disciples to believe that they had been cast out of their positions of discipleship. In fact, they might have even doubted their own salvation during the three days that Jesus remained in the grave. However, Jesus wanted them to remember this lesson. First all things are forgiven before God in a legal sense, and all things are forgivable that could block fellowship between the disciple and Christ.

He wanted to remind them that their salvation would not be jeopardized, no matter how they performed over the next 72 hours. That is a picture of positional forgiveness.⁠4  What’s even more astounding is that even the sins and shortcomings they would commit would not stand between them and Christ if they were willing to seek daily forgiveness.⁠5  How powerful the forgiveness of Christ, not only in a judicial sense but in a relational sense.

One final thing that we discover from these verses is that the bath and the washing of feet are two different things. They, therefore, must have two different methods for achieving them. The bath that Jesus discusses, their salvation, happened when each of these individuals put their faith in Jesus. When they believed in him for everlasting life, they received it right then and there. That is the moment that they took their spiritual bath. It’s not wonder that Jesus told disciples to get baptized, because hardly anything illustrates this spiritual bath better than taking a public bath.

However, the method for obtaining the washing of the feet is not the same as the method for obtaining the bath. Washing of the feet represents a relationship that is ever growing closer between a disciple and his master. So, those who seek daily forgiveness by confession in prayer get their feet washed by their master daily. John put it this way in his first letter,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.⁠6

How fantastic, that when a saved person confesses their sin to their savior in prayer, he does what he did for Peter and the other disciples. He washes their feet. The one who is saved doesn’t need to get saved again. Instead, the saved person needs a daily foot washing.

We discovered in this chapter that a bath represents the forgiveness we get at the moment of salvation, where feet washing represents the daily forgiveness a disciple gets when he confesses his sins to Christ. This simple distinction will allow us have confidence in our salvation, and grow in our discipleship.

1 John 13:5–10.

2 John 13:5–10.

3 Mark 8:29

4 See the previous chapter for an explanation of positional forgiveness.

5 See the previous chapter for an explanation of daily forgiveness.

6 1 John 1:9.

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CHAPTER 20 // POSITIONAL FORGIVENESS ≠ DAILY FORGIVENESS

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Positional and Daily Forgiveness

United States Supreme Court justices have what we call life tenure. That means that once they are appointed they will continue to hold their position for life. This is important because justices need to be able to make decisions without the fear of being removed from office. They have positional security, meaning their position won’t be taken away from them even if they make an unpopular decision.

Salvation in Christ offers a comparable positional security. Although, in this case, the appointment is not just for our mortal lives, but our eternal ones as well. Therefore, anything haveing to do with salvation can be discussed with positional terms. Forgiveness is no exception.

In this chapter we will examine the distinction between positional forgiveness, which is what all saved people have, and daily forgiveness which is what disciples should seek on a regular basis. Let’s begin by looking Colossians 1:13.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.⁠1

Do you see the positional terminology in this verse? He’s talking to believers when he says, “He… has conveyed us into the kingdom…” This speaks of the saved person’s irrevocable position. Similar to the Supreme Court appointees, this kingdom position will never be taken from one who has believed in Jesus, no matter what.

He further describes what kind of position we have before God when he says, “…in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.⁠2” So the eternal life tenure position that we hold is one in which we are positionally forgiven. That means that, in terms of judgment and condemnation, we are absolutely forgiven. There is no more that needs to be done in order for our sins to be paid for. We will not stand trial at the final judgment for our sin.⁠3 They were paid for, once for all sins and for all time.⁠4 We have been made holy once and for all⁠5, and we know it’s true because Jesus said before he died, “it is finished.”⁠6

This positional forgiveness happens the moment someone believes in Jesus for everlasting life. The Gospel of John, the Bible’s evangelistic book, doesn’t mention repentance a single time. Therefore, those who place their faith alone in Christ alone are forgiven once and for all even if they don’t realize that they are receiving positional forgiveness. This once and for all forgiveness is one of the primary mechanisms that makes eternal life possible, but the person who believes in Jesus for everlasting life may only learn after the fact that they have been forgiven forever. In the same way that a child can ride in a car without understanding how an internal combustion engine works, the one who seeks everlasting life from Christ can have it without understanding what it took for Christ to bestow it. If you are saved, but didn’t know you have positional forgiveness, congratulations, now you know.

Now, let’s take a look at 1 John 2:12.

I write to you, little children,

Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.⁠7

In this letter to believers, he identifies at least some of his readers as, “little children.” He goes on to then address, “fathers,” and “young men.” It seems that he wants his young readers, either physically young or spiritually young, to remember that they have an unbreakable salvation relationship with the father. He adds a reason for his writing. What’s the reason that we are forgiven? It’s for God’s name sake. In other words, It’s not because you earned this positional forgiveness, but instead, it was up to God to grant it.

So, positional forgiveness is for all saved people. If one believes in Jesus for everlasting life, they have this irrevocable forgiveness that never fades away. That means that the believer, never again has to ask God for the kind of forgiveness that will save them from Hell. However, there is another kind called daily forgiveness.

If we can compare positional forgiveness to the life tenure of a Supreme Court Justice, then daily forgiveness might be compared to the work of a day laborer. Let’s take a look at 1 John 1:9 to find out what daily forgiveness is.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.⁠8

Many have misunderstood this verse in thinking that it sets out a requirement to get saved. I’ve often heard poorly executed gospel presentations that call the new convert to confess his sins and ask for forgiveness in order to have salvation. That is a terrible misunderstanding of what it takes to get saved. Instead, this verse must be seen in the light of what it was intended to be. It’s a tool that a disciple uses to restore fellowship with Christ and others, not a mechanism for salvation.

In the verse we discover the meaning of daily forgiveness. We are to confess the sins that we are aware of, in order to have forgiveness. Notice that He forgives, not only the sins that we are aware enough to confess, but also, “all unrighteousness.” This is not talking about positional forgiveness, since it’s an ongoing command. When it’s obeyed it leads to better fellowship with Christ.

However, If a believer lets his daily sins pile up without confessing them in prayer, he is still saved, but his fellowship with Jesus is going to become impeded. The same is true of his fellowship with other believers. When we hang onto unconfessed sins, we run the risk of damaging our friendship with the Savior and the saved. He will still perform his promise of salvation even if we don’t continually ask for daily forgiveness, but there will grow a distance between us and him.

Hardly anyone would argue that seeking forgiveness is good, but how do we know it is supposed to be daily? For that let’s take a look at Matthew 6:11-12

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.⁠9

You will probably recognize these verses from the popular Lord’s prayer. This is the model that Jesus gave for private daily prayer. Notice the word, “daily” right there in the verse.

He then goes on to ask for forgiveness. Now, we need to understand that the Lord’s prayer is a model that we are expected to expand upon. We are expected to fill this model in with specifics. So, each day as we pray we should ask forgiveness for the sins we have committed.

Now there is a very important caveat here. The daily forgiveness that we receive is in proportion to the daily forgiveness we give to others. Notice how he puts it.

forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.⁠10

In this we find that daily forgiveness works differently than positional forgiveness. Positional forgiveness is a once for all forgiveness that we receive as a free gift, but daily forgiveness is something that we receive as a result of our willingness to forgive others. When we add to that what we read in 1 John 1:9, we now have at least two conditions for gaining daily forgiveness. We must confess, and forgive others if we want to receive daily forgiveness.

We see this same concept repeated and added upon in Luke 11:4.

And forgive us our sins,

For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”⁠11

As we see in the second half of the verse, there is an expectation for improvement. We should not only be forgiving others, confessing our sins, and asking for forgiveness but we also ought to ask for help in avoiding future failures. In my personal prayer time I have often said the words, “be my tour guide and lead me around temptation.” The mental image that it conjures up is one in which a very familiar tour guide knows the local dangers and leads me, a witless tourists, to bypass those locations.

Not only does it mention leading us away from temptation, but it speaks of a deliverance from the evil one. In this we see that some temptation is unavoidable. So, we too should ask that when we are faced with these unavoidable temptations, that we don’t give in to the evil impulses, but that we would be delivered.

If we want to be committed disciples we need to follow these four principles. Disciples confess sins daily, pray for forgiveness daily, forgive others constantly, and pray for victory over sin daily. If we can do those things our fellowship with Christ will enjoy a tremendous boost. That’s because we will be gaining daily forgiveness, which is the lifeblood of discipleship.

Positional forgiveness is a mechanism for salvation. Without positional forgiveness, salvation would not be possible. Daily forgiveness is a mechanism for discipleship. Without it, our fellowship with Christ will suffer tremendously.

1 Colossians 1:13–14.

2 Colossians 1:13–14.

3 John 5:24

4 1 Peter 3:18, Romans 6:10,

5 Hebrews 10:10

6 John 19:30

7 1 John 2:12.

8 1 John 1:9.

9 Matthew 6:11–12.

10 Matthew 6:11–12.

11 Luke 11:4.

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CHAPTER 19 // THE BLACK DARKNESS ≠ THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE

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The Black and the Outer Darkness

The most afraid I’ve ever been was the time I got lost in the woods after dark. My brother and I were out with some youth group friends playing a game of paint ball in the pine forest of East Texas. As a moonless night fell, my heart rate rose. Being surrounded by the blinding dark and knowing that there were unseen others in the dark hunting us was a hair raising experience.
Darkness is often used in the Bible to describe a range of different things. In this chapter we are going to look at two different uses of the concept of darkness. The first use, as we will see, represents eternal condemnation in Hell. Let’s take a look at Jude 1:12-13.

…they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are… wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever.⁠1

These verses are discussing the actions and final destiny of a group of unsaved persons. Here it says that the “blackest of darkness” is reserved for them, and that this blackest of darkness will be an eternal experience. In case we have any doubt that he is talking about the destination of the unsaved in Hell, he clarifies toward the beginning of the chapter.

…the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;⁠2

This illusion to everlasting chains and once again darkness is referenced for both, unbelievers and fallen angels. Clearly, Jude is using the concept of darkness to illustrate Hell. It’s by the grace of God that those who believe in his Son, will never have to experience this blackest darkness. Therefore, the black darkness described by Jude, and avoiding it, is a matter of salvation.
However, it’s important to know that the Bible doesn’t always use darkness as a metaphor for Hell and a call for salvation. In fact, the Gospel of Matthew has a handful of references to darkness, but he is not speaking of Hell.
In this encounter a non-Jewish military man comes to Jesus to ask that his servant be healed. The Roman Centurion demonstrates great faith, even though he is not of the Jewish religion. Jesus is impressed and delivers these amazing words.

“Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”⁠3

Here, Jesus contrasts the faith of a gentile with the lack of faithfulness of some Jews. He teaches that gentiles, those from east and west, will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The image he gives here is one of a banquet or possibly some other honor ceremony in the Kingdom of Heaven. The most important humans who ever lived will be at this feast or ceremony. There will be gentiles there as well, given similar places of honor.
After explaining that, he teaches that the sons of the Kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. Before we define the outer darkness, let’s find out what it means to be sons of the kingdom. The title is used by Jesus a few chapters later and he defines the term very clearly. He gives a parable in which he explains that believers will be separated from unbelievers. He uses an agricultural analogy to explain that the good seeds are saved people and weeds (called tares) are not.

…the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.⁠4

Here we find that the sons of the kingdom are saved. The parable of the wheat and the weeds doesn’t indicate how faithful these sons of the kingdom are, only that they have everlasting life.
So, what then does he mean when he says,

But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”⁠5

Obviously many have assumed that, being cast into outer darkness is a description of being cast into Hell, but that doesn’t work with the context.
First notice where this event is taking place.

“…many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”⁠6

This feast is taking place in the kingdom of heaven. It then says that,

“…But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out…”⁠7

If I threw you out of my house, doesn’t that mean you would have been inside my house first? If they are to be cast out of something, they must first be inside that same something. So what are they inside of before they can be cast out? Well, for one they are inside the kingdom of heaven since that is where the feast is taking place. There is no other way to read it. By that we know that they must be saved because Jesus said that no one will see or enter the kingdom of God unless they are born-again.⁠8
Now here’s a twist that you may not have noticed. It doesn’t actually say they are cast out of the kingdom of heaven. The grammar indicates that they are cast out of the feast or ceremony. See how Jesus says,

“…But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into…”⁠9

He says they are being cast out of one area but into another. What is it that they are being cast into? It’s called outer darkness. It does not say they are cast out of the kingdom. Instead we see that they are cast into what is defined as, “outer.” It’s outer, not out. If I visited the outer edge of the United States, would I still be in the country? Yep. For something to be the outer part, it must still be inside the whole. So, these sons of the kingdom, who are saved, are tossed out of the feast or ceremony but are still inside the kingdom of heaven. We will get more clarity on what the outer darkness is with the next parable that we look at.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.
“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ He also who had received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’
“But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.
‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’⁠10

This story focuses on three servants. The servants represent three saved people. Notice that even at the close of the story, the least faithful one is still called “servant” albeit lazy and unprofitable servant. Although they are rewarded differently for their service, non of them ever stops being a servant of their Lord. Even the last reference to the unfaithful one reiterates the master-servant relationship, even though the master is disciplining him.
His master is so upset with him, he ejects him from his house and into the dark. Some have claimed that this could rightly be translated as the darkness outside. The unprofitability of the servant has so enraged his master that he is made to go and sleep outside. His place of comfort and inside the house is revoked because he’s been so unfaithful. He’s made to go out and reside where the animals have to sleep. His status is no higher than the beasts who live in the fields around the house. Once the unprofitable servant is out there he cries in the darkness. He’s full of remorse for his bad behavior. The stories tell us that weeping and gnashing of teeth accompany being shut out into the darkness.
Those that claim the darkness outside is an analogy for Hell might say that only the unsaved will weep and gnash their teeth. However, Jesus wept⁠11, and God gnashed his teeth⁠12, so weeping and gnashing of teeth are not things reserved only for unbelievers, or unsaved. Weeping and gnashing of teeth is an expression of regret and remorse, sometimes even frustration. Why will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth? 1 Corinthians 3:15 tells us that there will be believers who will suffer loss while they are in heaven. The loss they suffer will be missing out on rewards, and fellowship with Christ because of their lack of diligence during their mortal lives. They will experience regret and frustration at themselves but they will be saved.⁠13
What’s more, we know that there will be weeping in the Kingdom of Heaven because it is not until the New Heaven and the New Earth that God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.⁠14 That far-future event is the point at which crying will be done away with. For him to wipe away tears then, there must be crying that exists up until that time in order that it may be wiped away. So, while the Kingdom of God will be a very joy filled place for its citizens, there will still be those who experience regret and even cry in the millennial kingdom of heaven. Weeping in the Kingdom of Heaven will be centered around regret for a lack of faithfulness to Christ while in their mortal bodies. Those who believed in Jesus and were saved but did not choose a life of discipleship will regret it tremendously when Christ comes in his kingdom. They will be barred from the fullest experience in the Kingdom of Heaven.
There is one more reference to the outer darkness, also found in Matthew.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.” ’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’⁠15

What was the harshest punishment that appeared in this above story. The harsher punishment is the point at which the king, “sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” What is the harshest punishment that God will enact against evil unbelievers? Hell is waiting for those who do not believe in Jesus, and is the primary and most sever of the punishments that God will dispense.
There seems to be a dual nature of the king’s punishment. While it likely represents God’s temporal judgments on the nation of Israel, in which armies came against them and burned their cities. It too must represent not only the physical fate of those who refused to believe for salvation, but their eternal fate as well. It must represent both temporal wrath and eternal Hell. If destroying the murderers and burning their city is a reference to Hell, then what does it mean that the poorly dressed man is cast into outer darkness? It must mean something else; something much less severe.
Notice that the man who does not have a wedding garment is not killed. His city is not burned. The army is not employed to hunt him down. In fact, the King calls him “friend,” when he first addresses him. The man is speechless. He would have known that there is a dress code for a royal banquet, and therefore should have been preparing for the feast. Because he doesn’t meet the royal expectation, he is tied up and tossed out of the wedding feast.
There are those that will still try to claim that outer darkness must mean Hell, but even they would have to admit that this man is treated with a much less severe punishment than that which the murderers received. Therefore, outer darkness must be something less severe than being condemned to Hell. In fact, as we’ve seen in the previous two examples, it is. Notice that the feast is likely happening at night, since it took all day to get anyone to attend. So the man who was tied and removed from the banquet is being tossed outside in the dark. The king doesn’t revoke his citizenship, kick him out of the Kingdom, or kill him. Instead, he simply removes him from his feast.
Outer darkness suggests a sense in which the one thrown out has to stand outside in the dark. All the while, he knows an incredible banquet is taking place inside. He had the ability to prepare but he chose not to. That this disappointing turn of events produces tears is no surprise.
What we’ve discovered in this chapter is that Jude spoke of the blackest darkness as an image of Hell. That however, is not the same thing as being thrown into the outer darkness. Jesus spoke of the outer darkness as a dishonored experience in Heaven. This is certainly a reference to a call to discipleship. Therefore, avoiding the blackest darkness is possibly only by salvation, where as avoiding the outer darkness is possibly by discipleship.


1 Jude 12–13.
2 Jude 5–6.
3 Matthew 8:10–12.
4 Matthew 13:37–38.
5 Matthew 8:10–12.
6 Matthew 8:10–12.
7 Matthew 8:10–12.
8 John 3:3,5
9 Matthew 8:10–12.
10 Matthew 25:14–30.
11 John 11:13
12 Job 16:9
13 1 Corinthians 3:15
14 Revelation 21:4
15 Matthew 22:2–14.

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CHAPTER 18 // HEIRS OF GOD ≠ FELLOW HEIRS WITH CHRIST

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Heirs of God and Fellow Heirs with Christ

As we discovered in the previous chapter there is a difference between entering the Kingdom and inheriting the Kingdom. In this chapter we will discover that there are various types of inheritance. The line of distinction will be drawn between being heirs of God, and being co-heirs with Christ. What’s the difference between being an heir of God, and a co-heir with Christ? Paul lays out these two types of inheritance in the same verse. Let’s look at his words in Romans 8:17.

And if we are children, we are also heirs—heirs, on the one hand, of God, and on the other hand, co-heirs with Christ if we suffer together with Him so that we may also be glorified together with Him⁠1

We notice two types of inheritance mentioned in this verse, one that children of God will receive, and one that co-heirs with Christ will receive. In the ancient world, every family experienced two types of inheritance as well. All children would generally inherit something, unless the Father decided to cut them out of the inheritance. However, a first-born son would get a double portion⁠2 of inheritance or sometimes more. From the verses above we learn that every believer is child of God⁠3 and will receive a general inheritance. What is the inheritance that all believers regardless of faithfulness will receive? He gives us a clue in a previous verse. In talking about the transaction that takes place at salvation paul says,

For you have not received again a spirit of bondage producing fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by means of which we cry out, “Abba, Father!”⁠4

Roman adoption—which could take place at any age—canceled all previous debts and relationships, defining the new son wholly in terms of his new relationship to his father, whose heir he thus became.⁠5Therefore the heirs of God receive forgiveness, are no longer slaves to the law, and are free from the fear of condemnation. All believers are heirs of these things, which is to say that all children of God have salvation. Where as being a heir of God, is equal to being saved, being co-heirs with Christ is something greater.

This is where we draw the line between salvation and discipleship. It is committed disciples who will be co-heirs with Christ. We know that because Paul gives a requirement for being co-heirs. Let’s see what that condition is.

…if we suffer together with Him⁠6

The condition for being co-heirs with Christ is that we suffer with him. He tells us in a number of places that discipleship will cost us a great price. Jesus promised that those who choose a life of discipleship will be  hated⁠7 and  persecuted by the world.⁠8 However, here he promises that those who are willing to accept that kind of suffering will be his co-heir.

We know it is going to cost us, but what is the benefit of being a co-heir with Christ? The first clue is in the verse.

…so that we may also be glorified together with Him.⁠9

Paul says that co-heirs will be glorified with Christ.⁠10 We find out in another place that Christ humbled himself but will be exalted to the highest place and that everyone everywhere will bow down before him and call him Lord.⁠11 Not only does glory surround Christ but also inheritance. Who is going to have the best inheritance in the Kingdom of God? In the same chapter that Paul tells us we can be co-heirs, he calls Jesus the “first born among many brothers.”⁠12  Calling Jesus “first born” is a way of saying he will have the biggest inheritance in the Kingdom. That means at least a double portion or even more. However, when Paul says we are co-heirs with Christ, he is telling us that Jesus will share that great inheritance with those who suffer with him. His disciples will get a piece of the pie. We find out that the inheritance that will be shared between Jesus and his disciples will outweigh the suffering by an astronomical margin.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.⁠13

 

In other words, suffer with Christ because it is going to be worth it. Everyone who is saved is an child and heir of God. However, those who choose the painful path of discipleship will enjoy the portion of first-born sons. They will be co-heirs with Christ.

1 Romans 8:17

Translation by: Zane C. Hodges, Romans: Deliverance from Wrath, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2013), 224.

2 Deuteronomy 21:17

3 John 1:12

4 Romans 8:15

Translated by: Zane C. Hodges, Romans: Deliverance from Wrath, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2013), 221.

5 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 8:15.

6 Romans 8:17

Translation by: Zane C. Hodges, Romans: Deliverance from Wrath, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2013), 224.

7 John 15:18

8 John 15:20

9 Romans 8:17

Translation by: Zane C. Hodges, Romans: Deliverance from Wrath, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Corinth, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2013), 224.

10 Romans 8:17

11 Philpians 2:9-10

12 Romans 8:29

13 Romans 8:18.

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CHAPTER 17 // ENTER THE KINGDOM ≠ INHERIT THE KINGDOM

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ENTERING AND INHERITING THE KINGDOM

Let’s imagine that certain wealthy father had twins. The brothers grew up together at their family’s palatial estate. Once they were old enough to take their own path in life their father called them together and said, “You will both always be my children, but I would like you each to stay here in my household, manage the household affairs, and inherit this estate one day.”

Now let’s say that one of the brothers stayed with the father’s household to do as he asked. As a result he inherited everything. All this while, the other brother went and traveled the world instead. He would only visit rarely, and grew distant with his father and twin. He was always welcome to enter the house as a visitor, but he inherited nothing in it.

That illustrates the concept that we will be looking at in this chapter. Just like there is a big difference between inheriting a house and entering a house, there is an even bigger difference between entering the kingdom and inheriting it. Let’s take a look at our first verses, John 3:3.

… unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.⁠1

Then in defining what it means to be born again Jesus says,

unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.⁠2

What follows this in John chapter 3 is the most famous verse of all time. The well known John 3:16, seen as the premiere  evangelistic verse, comes as an explanation for what it means to enter the Kingdom of God.

Because Jesus is so crystal clear in John 3 about what is required for gaining everlasting life, we don’t have to wonder what this means. We know, without a doubt, that entering the kingdom is a synonym for having everlasting life. Since everlasting life is a free gift for all those who believe in Jesus, then entrance into the Kingdom of God is free for all those who believe. Entering the Kingdom is salvation.

Now that we’ve established that entering the Kingdom of God is about salvation, let’s take a look at Galations 5:19-20.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.⁠3

A casual reading of these verses might send shivers up the spine of the well-meaning Christian. Especially the last line makes it sound as if entrance into the Kingdom of God is not as free as we previously thought. It makes it sound as if only those who obey Jesus perfectly will be allowed in.

Some have proposed that there is  leniency in entrance because Paul said, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.⁠4” The word practice is emphasized as if what Paul means is, only those that continue in repetitive sins are barred from entering the Kingdom. However, there’s a problem with this interpretation. How much sin is too much to be let into Heaven? After all, is it ok to commit a little murder and adultery, but not too much? Would that person be let into Heaven? The do-gooder would never know, and therefore never be sure that they are saved. However, the Bible offers assurance of salvation in a number of places.⁠5

So, emphasizing the word practice doesn’t get us out of this pickle. Before you start sweating bullets, be calm. The answer is actually more simple than you might think. Understanding this verse does come down to one word, but the word is not practice. What’s the word that will clear up the confusion? Inherit.

…those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.⁠6

Notice the presence of the word inherit in the sentence. It’s easy to miss it if you haven’t been made aware of the difference. The verse doesn’t actually mention entering the Kingdom of God at all. It’s not talking about salvation, but instead an inheritance of the Kingdom.

As we illustrated at the beginning of this chapter, entering a house and inheriting a house are two very different things. Doesn’t it make sense that entering a kingdom and inheriting a kingdom would be separate things as well? In fact, they are. To inherit the kingdom of God speaks of what Jesus called treasure in heaven. Inheritance is about ownership. Those who have salvation are welcome to come into Heaven, but those who practice discipleship will have ownership in the Kingdom. We can be stakeholders by discipleship. What a wonderful revelation.

In case this is a new concept to you, let’s look at another place where Paul defines what he means by the word inheritance.

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,  knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.⁠7

We should thank Paul for being so clear here. By using the word inheritance, he means reward. As we have established in previous chapters, gifts and rewards are not the same thing. Once more, it’s clear that he is not talking about the gift of salvation, but reward for hard a working disciple. In fact, he even tells us who will get this reward. He explains that those who serve the Lord, which is a reference to good work done in obedience to Jesus. Disciples can expect a reward of inheritance.

The modern definition of inheritance might easily mislead us, for inheritance today is often evenly divided among all the living sons and daughters when a parent dies. That was not the case in the ancient world. In fact, a father would give inheritance unevenly to his children. He would often decide who was most worthy and faithful to inherit and run the family estate when he died. This definition most closely fits what Paul is saying here.

Entering the Kingdom of God is a synonym for salvation. However, for those who take up the mantle of discipleship and remain committed, they will inherit the Kingdom of God. The saved will enter, but disciples will inherit.

1 John 3:3–5.

2 John 3:5.

3 Galations 5:19–21.

4 Galations 5:19–21.

5 John 1:12, 3:16, 36, 5:34, 6:47, 11:26.

6 Galations 5:19–21.

7 Colosians 3:23–24.

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