When God created all things there was no sin. Genesis 1:31 — “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” But He made man and angels like Lucifer who became Satan (which means the adversary when he rebelled against God’s authority (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28)) to have their own free will to choose to obey Him or disobey Him. Sin came into the universe when both Satan and man chose to disobey God on their own will. Hence God did not create sin.
God never makes mistakes. He cannot, since He already knows the future and the outcome of everything. “for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:” (Isaiah 46:9,10)
God does all things with one purpose — to glorify Himself. Even the Flood was designed to accomplish that purpose. “What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24)
Christ has borne the punishment for all the sins of God’s people on the cross at Calvary. If born again Christians have been living in disobedience to God, the difficulty may be a chastisement from God. Chastisement is different from punishment – Chastisement is meted by God out of love with the purpose of drawing the disobedient person back to God (Deut 8:5; Prov 3:12). Sometimes it is difficult for us to tell if God is chastising us or simply testing us. The Bible shows us that Job did not know until everything was over. But one thing we know: “…all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
The process of testing if for our benefit — it refines our faith, and draws us nearer to God. (1 Peter 1:7 — “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:”)
This is not due to any negligence or inconsistency on the part of God. If our prayers are not answered it may be due to one or more of the following reasons: We ask for the wrong things or for selfish reasons (James 4:3 — “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.”); We are living in sin and disobedience to God and have not repented (Psalm 66:18 — ” If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”). Sometimes it God answers our prayers but we do not perceive it — His answer may be: ‘No’ or ‘Wait and be patient’.
After a born again Christian dies, his soul goes immediately to heaven to see Jesus. “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Paul said “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Although the soul is with the Lord, it does not have a body yet, until the resurrection, when God gives the soul a new and glorious physical body, just like the the body Jesus had after His resurrection. Philippians 3:20,21 — “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”
As for those who are not saved, their soul immediately goes to suffer in hell upon death. At the resurrection, they also receive new bodies, but only to be cast into the lake of Fire and brimstone to suffer eternal death. Rev 20:13-15 – “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Those who are truly saved will never lose their salvation. Jesus said in John 10:27-29 – “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” (see also Romans 8:38,39)
But how can we tell if a person is truly born again? One important way is by the life he leads after salvation. There are many who claim that they are Christians, but they are really not: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16). A true Christian will have a changed life, as God works in him. Though he may occasionally still fall into sin because of the weakness of the flesh, he should become better and better. If he backslides into sin, God will chastise him and bring him back to the path of righteousness.
The first thing that we need to understand is that God does not owe salvation to anyone. The fact that He chose to save some out of so many is already amazing. By right, no one should be saved at all, because all alike are sinners worthy of eternal death (Romans 3:10 – “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.”; Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;”)
Secondly, the cause for the condemnation of the lost is not that they had never heard of Christ, but their own sin and rebellion against God. God has given every human being a conscience that shows them right and wrong. (Romans 2:14-15 – “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;”)
Thirdly, God is always righteous in judgment. No one can accuse Him of being unfair or unjust (Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”)
God does not ordinarily speak to His people in an audible voice today. Those who claim to see visions of God or hear Him speaking to them all the time may be misled by their own imagination or even by some deception of Satan. God has chosen to speak to His people through His written Word, the Bible. (2 Peter 1:16-19 — “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:”)
When a born again Christian reads the Bible, the Holy Spirit takes the words he reads and personalises it to him. As a result, he becomes deeply convicted that the words he reads are meant for him personally. In this sense, a Christian can say, “The Lord spoke to me.”(1 Cor 2:10-16).
The canonicity of the books of the Bible was determined as follows:
As the various books of the Bible were written, they were read by believers and recognised by consensus. The Holy Spirit caused them to accept those books which God had inspired (the 66 books that we have in our Bible today) and reject those books which were not inspired by God (e.g. the apocrypha and the spurious gospels).
How do we know what was the consensus of God’s people? Through differences in the way they handled the books. e.g. the Dead Sea Scrolls show a difference in the way that the writers quoted from the OT books from the way that they quoted from other books written at the same time.
As for the NT, Tertullian made this statement which represents the thinking of Christians in the 2nd century AD with regard to the Bible: “We Christians are forbidden to introduce anything else on our own authority, or to choose what someone introduces on his own authority. Our authorities are the Lord’s apostles, and they in turn chose to introduce nothing on their own authority. They faithfully passed on to the nations the teaching which they had received from Christ.”
How we know that the Bible is complete:
God has defined that the OT prophets (see Deuteronomy 18:20-21) and the NT apostles (see John 16:12-16) are the only legitimate human writers of scripture whom the Holy Spirit will inspire. Ephesians 2:20 – “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” Ephesians 3:5 – “Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” 2 Peter 3:2 – “That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour”
These two groups are the only two categories of the “Holy men of God” mentioned in 2 Peter 1:21 – “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” The line of OT prophets came to an end about 400 BC. Josephus, declared that the prophets wrote from the days of Moses to Artaxerxes. Josephus also wrote: “It is true our history hath been written since Artaxerxes very particularly but hath not been esteemed of the like authority with the former by our forefathers, because there hath not been an exact succession of prophets since that time.” The Talmud remarks: “After the latter prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, the Holy Spirit departed from Israel.” Both of these sources testify that Malachi was the last writing prophet of the OT. Hence no one after Malachi can claim that he is a writing prophet.
The line of NT apostles came to an end about AD 90 with the death of the apostle John. What is an apostle? He must be an eyewitness to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3), and manifest the signs of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3,4). It is true that the books of Mark, Luke and Acts were not written by an apostle, but these have the authority of the apostles behind them, e.g. Peter for Mark and Paul for Luke and Acts. No one living after AD 90 can claim to be an apostle or have the authority of an apostle because all the apostles of Christ died by that time.
Another evidence that the Bible is complete is the fact that the last few chapters of the last book, Revelation, reflect themes in the first few chapters of Genesis which is the first book. Look at the following:
Subject / Theme
God giveth light – Gen 1:3; Rev 22:5
God’s garden/city – Gen 2:8; Rev 21:10
Tree of Life – Gen 2:9; Rev 22:2
Precious stones – Gen 2:11-12; Rev 21:18-20
River – Gen 2:11-14; Rev 22:1
Marriage – Gen 2:24; Rev 21:2
Satan – Gen 3:3; Rev 20:2
Destruction of Evil – Gen 6:11-13; Rev 19:20,21
Babylon – Gen 11:1-9; Rev 18:1-9
This is not coincidental, but a real testimony to the conclusive nature of the book of Revelation. The same kind of structure can be observed in OT poetry. e.g. Psalm 103 begin and end with the same phrase: “Bless the LORD, O my soul” Therefore, any book that is written after the book of Revelation and claimed to be part of the Bible would violate this intricate structure of God’s revelation!
As for Rev 22:18,19 the argument that it applies to the whole Bible is admittedly tenuous since the words “the words of the book of this prophecy” apply directly to the Book of Revelation alone. Hence it is a warning not to tamper with the book of Revelation. However the same warning is found in Deuteronomy 4:2 – “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (also Deu 12;32). Hence, by analogy, every book of the Bible, which is inspired by God, cannot be tampered with with additions or subtractions. In an indirect sense, additional books purported to be from God, will be doing that, especially if their message nullifies or changes what God has already revealed through the prophets and apostles.
The writers of the books of the Bible said that their books were written by inspiration of God. E.g. “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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17, cf 2 Peter 1:21). Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 2:12,13 — “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.”
Peter acknowledged that Paul’s writings were part of the Scriptures inspired by God — “even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:15,16)
We believe that Christ’s atonement was sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect.
It is correct to say that Christ died to save only the elect, when the context is the design and intention of the atonement, and not its sufficiency.
The Arminians believe that Christ’s atonement was designed and intended to save the whole world but only those who believe are saved. This position is wrong because when an atonement is made for anyone his sins can no longer be held against him. The penalty for all his sins has already been fully paid. If that person has to pay it again in hell, then there would be a double payment for the same sins. So the atonement of Christ could only have paid for the sins of the elect, not for the sins of the non-elect. Matthew 1:21 says, “…for He shall save His people from their sins.” The term ‘his people’ here refers to the elect. Ephesians 5:25 – “…even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” Again the term ‘church’ demarcates a group of people, not the whole world.
But the value of Christ’s atonement is infinite, so that if hypothetically, God had elected every sinner who ever lived, Christ’s atonement would still have been sufficient to pay for all of them. No sinner is lost because of an insufficient atonement. This sufficiency is stated in 1 John 2:2 – “And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” Therefore the atonement is sufficient for all.
First we must consider what is true of all three persons in the Trinity: The Westminster Shorter Catechism summarises it as follows: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” What is true about God is true about each person in the Trinity. God is eternal. Therefore Father is eternal, Son is eternal, Spirit is eternal, etc. All three persons are equal (cf. John 5:17,18; 10:30) but there are functional differences:
The Father is mentioned first, followed by the Son, and then the Holy Spirit. (John 14:28 – “If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.”, 16:14 – “He [the Holy Spirit] shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”, 5:19 – “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”). This does not mean that the Holy Spirit is a lesser God than Jesus and that Jesus is a lesser God than the Father. Or that one is less important than the other.
Functionally, God the Father is the Source from whom all things originate. God the Son is the Word or wisdom, and God the Holy Spirit is the Power, executing the will of God. These functions can be seen in creation (1 Cor 8:6 – “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.”, Gen 1:2 – “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”).
And salvation (1 Pet 1:2 – “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.”) The Father elected us to salvation from the before foundation of the world, The Son provided the atonement that saves us, and the Spirit Calls us through the preaching of the Word. When we pray – we pray to the Father, through the Son, by means of the Holy Spirit.
However, the distinctions are not absolute and there is some overlap. E.g. Which Person of the Trinity abides in the believer? – The Holy Spirit; God the Son – John 14:20 “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.” (cf. Gal 2:20); God the Father – “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” In whose name do we baptize? Acts 2:38 says “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” But Matthew 28:19 says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”
Sanctification is the work of the Spirit (as seen in 1 Pet 1:2) and yet in Jude 1:1, it is God the Father who sanctifies! (“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called”). Awhile ago we said that prayer is directed to God the Father, but one prayer in the Bible is not addressed to the Father, but to the Son – Acts 7:59 – “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Hence, there definitely is some overlap in functions and roles. How much? – Not for us to say or to measure. Remember: That it is beyond man’s ability to completely understand or analyse God, the way he might analyse anything in this world. We should simply accept what the Bible says about Him.