12/26/18

"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" Advantages Of Jesus' Humanity (2:5-18) by Mark Copeland


"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

Advantages Of Jesus' Humanity (2:5-18)

INTRODUCTION

1. Following his warning against drifting (He 2:1-4), the writer of
   Hebrews continues to illustrate Jesus' superiority to angels...
   a. In the first chapter the emphasis was on Jesus' deity
   b. Now the focus is on Jesus' humanity

2. One can imagine the sort of objections that could be raised about
   Jesus' humanity...
   a. When Jesus became flesh, didn't that make Him lower than the angels?
   b. How then can it be said that He is superior to angels?

3. The response is that Jesus' humanity provided several advantages...
   a. In regaining man's lost dominion
   b. In bringing many sons to glory
   c. In disarming Satan, and delivering us from the fear of death
   d. In becoming a sympathetic high priest

[Yes, becoming flesh did not prove to be a handicap or a mark of
inferiority; rather, it served to make Him "perfect"!  To see how,
let's note how Jesus' humanity first...]

I. ENABLED JESUS TO REGAIN MAN'S LOST DOMINION (2:5-9)

   A. MAN ONCE HAD DOMINION OVER THE EARTH...
      1. At the beginning, man was given dominion over God's creation
         - Gen 1:26-28
      2. David marveled that God set man over His works - Ps 8:4-6
         a. Even though man was made "a little lower than the angels"
         b. Yet God "crowned him with glory and honor"!

   B. MAN HAS LOST THAT DOMINION...
      1. As is rather evident:  "But now we do not yet see all things
         put under him." - He 2:8
      2. As a result of The Fall, man lost his dominion

   C. JESUS, AS A MAN, REGAINED THAT DOMINION!
      1. Jesus was "made a little lower than the angels"; i.e., He
         became a man!
      2. Because of His suffering of death, He was "crowned with glory
         and honor"!
         a. What man once had and lost...Jesus has regained!
         b. Those who are in Him share in that rule, both now and in
            the future!
            1) Seated at the right hand of God, Christ rules over all
               - cf. Ep 1:20-22
            2) Those in Christ sit together with Him - cf. Ep 2:4-6
            3) Especially so, when we pass from this life to the
               next... - cf. Re 2:26-27; 3:21

[Such dominion, both now and in "the world to come", was never given
to angels (He 2:5). Man had it and lost it. Becoming a man and
suffering death enabled Jesus to regain that dominion for man!

By the same suffering and death, Jesus was able to "taste death for
everyone" (He 2:9). By the grace of God, then, His humanity also...]

II. ENABLED JESUS TO BRING MANY SONS TO GLORY (2:10-13)

   A. HIS SUFFERINGS IN THE FLESH WERE "FITTING"...
      1. God gave Jesus the task...
         a. To bring many sons to glory (to restore man to his position
            of glory and honor)
         b. To be the "author" (captain, pioneer, leader) of man's
            salvation
      2. His sufferings in the flesh made Jesus "perfect" for the task!
         a. This is not to imply that Jesus was imperfect when He was
            on the earth
         b. The word "perfect" means to be "complete, effective, adequate"
         c. To be complete and effective as our Savior and High Priest,
            Jesus' sufferings were necessary - cf. He 2:18

   B. HIS HUMANITY MAKES HIM "ONE" WITH THOSE BEING SAVED...
      1. Even though He is the One who "sanctifies", and they are
         "being sanctified"
      2. His humanity (and suffering) makes them "all of one"
      3. Such identity with man makes Jesus proud to call us
         "brethren"! - He 2:12-13

[The idea of Jesus as the One whose suffering in the flesh makes Him
the perfect author of our salvation, and not ashamed to call us
brethren, is expanded even further in the remaining verses of the
chapter.  Here we see that the humanity of Jesus...]

III. ENABLED JESUS TO DISARM SATAN AND DELIVER US FROM THE FEAR OF
     DEATH (2:14-16)

   A. JESUS' DEATH GAVE HIM VICTORY OVER THE DEVIL...
      1. Through His own death and resurrection, Jesus "destroyed" the devil!
         a. The devil is still very active - cf. 1Pe 5:8-9
         b. But though he once "had" (past tense) the power of death,
            no more! - cf. Re 1:18
      2. His power greatly weakened by Jesus' victory over death, Satan
         will be destroyed for all time at the time of our own
         resurrection! - cf. Re 20:10-12

   B. JESUS' DEATH GAVE US FREEDOM FROM THE FEAR OF DEATH...
      1. A fear that keeps many in bondage throughout their lifetime
      2. But the faithful Christian need not fear death!
           - cf. Ro 8:37-39; 1Co 3:21-23; Php 2:21
      3. Thus it is to the "seed of Abraham" (faithful Christians, cf.
         Ga 3:29), and not to "angels" that Jesus has given such aid! - He 2:16

[Finally, partaking of flesh and blood, suffering and dying on the cross...]

IV. ENABLED JESUS TO BE A SYMPATHETIC HIGH PRIEST (2:17-18)

   A. JESUS IS A MERCIFUL AND FAITHFUL HIGH PRIEST...
      1. In coming to this world, Jesus was "made like His brethren"
      2. He became like man "in all things"
      3. This equipped Him for the role of a merciful and faithful high priest
         a. "In things pertaining to God"
         b. "To make propitiation for the sins of the people"
         c. We read later that the role of high priest involved
            offering gifts and sacrifices for sin - He 5:1

   B. HE IS ABLE TO AID THOSE WHO ARE TEMPTED...
      1. He too has suffered, and been tempted, though we learn later
         He remained without sin - He 4:15
      2. Such suffering makes Him compassionate - cf. He 5:2
      3. Therefore those who come to Him can expect to receive mercy
         and grace in time of need! - cf. He 4:16

CONCLUSION

1. What angel has accomplished such things as...
   a. Regain man's lost dominion?
   b. Bring many sons to glory?
   c. Disarm Satan, and deliver us from the fear of death?
   d. Become a sympathetic high priest?

2. All these things (and certainly much more) Jesus has done by virtue
   of becoming man...
   a. Yes, He became "a little lower than the angels"
   b. But in so doing, even His humanity makes Him far superior to angels!

3. With the first two chapters we see the superiority of Jesus...
   a. Over the prophets, as God's perfect spokesman
   b. Over the angels, by virtue of His deity and His humanity
   -- Why should we ever want to turn our back on such a Savior?

We have also seen that Jesus, who was tempted, who has suffered and
tasted death for everyone, is not ashamed to call us "brethren".  Are
we ashamed to call Him "Lord"?  Are we willing to serve Him as Lord?

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Was the "Image of God" Destroyed by Sin? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=564


Was the "Image of God" Destroyed by Sin?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Many theologians through the years have claimed that the “image of God” spoken of in Genesis 1:26-27 refers to a spiritual perfection that was lost in the Fall. Thus, they have concluded that modern man no longer bears the image of God. Reformer Martin Luther believed that the “image of God” was an original righteousness that was lost completely. He thus proclaimed: “I am afraid that since the loss of this image through sin we cannot understand it to any extent.” Oftentimes John Calvin spoke of the image of God as having been destroyed by sin, obliterated by the Fall, and utterly defaced by unrighteousness. More recently, religionist/anthropologist Arthur Custance, in his 1975 book, Man in Adam and in Christ, observed: “Genesis tells us that man was created in a special way, bearing the stamp of God upon him which the animals did not bear. Genesis also tells us that he lost it” (p. 103). Does the language of Genesis 1:26-27 refer only to Adam and Eve, as these writers would have us to believe? Or does it refer to all mankind in general?

The Bible reveals that man still retains the image of God after the Fall. Genesis 9:6 states: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.” According to this passage, fallen man still bears the image of God. The record of Adam and Eve’s fall had been recorded earlier in the book of Genesis; that man had become a rank sinner is stated clearly in the immediate context of the passage (“…every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood”—8:21). Although God’s assessment is correct in regard to mankind, murder is forbidden because manis made in the image of God—that is, he still bears that image. If one argues that this passage speaks only about the past and says nothing about the future, he does violence to the meaning of the passage. Moses, writing about 2,500 years after the Fall, said that the reason murder is wrong is because the victim is someone created in the image of God. If man no longer bears the image of God after the Fall, these words would have been meaningless to the Israelites (and are worthless for man today).
In the New Testament, one can read where James wrote: “But the tongue can no man tame; it is a restless evil, it is full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we the Lord and Father; and therewith curse we men, who are made after the likeness of God” (3:8-9, emp. added). The English verb “are made” (ASV) derives from the Greek gegonotas, which is the perfect participle of the verb ginomai. The perfect tense in Greek is used to describe an action brought to completion in the past, but whose effects are felt in the present. For example, when the Bible says, “It is written,” this is usually in the perfect tense. Scripture was written in the past, but is applicable to the present. The thrust of the Greek expression translated “who are made after the likeness of God,” is that humans in the past have been made according to the likeness of God and they are still bearers of that likeness. For this reason, it is inconsistent to worship God and curse men with the same tongue.
Although sin is destructive to man and repulsive to God, the Bible does not teach that the “image of God” was destroyed by sin’s entrance into the world. Rather, modern man still is created in God’s image. How thrilling and humbling it is to know that all men possess inherent characteristics that liken them to God and differentiate them from the lower creation.

Was Peter the First Pope? by Moisés Pinedo


http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2561

Was Peter the First Pope?

by Moisés Pinedo


Many advocates of petrine tradition will argue that Peter was appointed the “first pope.” Consider some of the arguments that are presented in favor of this assertion.

Argument #1: Peter received the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19).

With this statement Catholicism argues that Peter was granted supreme power or authority over the church. Although the context in Matthew supports no such interpretation, people of various religions agree that Peter was granted “something special” that was given to no other apostle. This “something” has often been misinterpreted.
We need to understand what “kingdom of heaven” means. Some people have suggested that it refers to heaven itself, and thus, they have represented Peter as the one who allows or prevents access into the eternal reward. But this interpretation is inconceivable since it finds itself in clear opposition to the context of this passage. Reading Matthew 16:18, we understand that the subject under discussion is not heaven itself, but the church. Therefore, Jesus spoke of the church as being the kingdom of heaven. This is shown not only in the context of Matthew 16:18, but it also is taught in many other passages throughout the New Testament (e.g., Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 12:28).
Further, we need to understand the nature of the “keys” given to Peter. H. Leo Boles wrote, “To use the keys was to open the door or give the terms of entrance into the kingdom of God” (1952, p. 348). In other words, because of Peter’s confession about Jesus (Matthew 16:16), Jesus gave him the privilege of being the first man to tell lost souls how to become Christians and thus become part of the Lord’s church. Barnes put it this way:
When the Saviour says, therefore, he will give to Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, he means that he will make him the instrument of opening the door of faith to the world—the first to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles (2005a, p. 171, italics in orig.).
There is no doubt that the “keys” represent the opportunities Peter would have to welcome the world, for the very first time, to the Christian age and to the kingdom of heaven—the church.
Also, we need to know when Peter used the “keys.” Jesus’ declaration was in a prophetic form. Peter would have the opportunity to open the doors of the church in the future. The Bible clearly shows us the fulfillment of this prophecy in Acts 2. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit like the other apostles (2:4), stood and gave the first recorded Gospel sermon after the resurrection of Jesus (2:14-38). It was at that moment when Jesus’ words were fulfilled. Because of the preaching of Peter and the other apostles, 3,000 Jews (cf. 2:5) were baptized into Christ and entered through the open doors of the church (2:41-47). However, the church would be composed not only of Jews, but also Gentiles. Acts 10 tells us that Peter opened the doors of the church to the Gentiles, in the same way he opened the doors of the church to the Jews. This was the “special something” given to Peter because of his confession—the privilege of being the first to preach the Gospel (after the resurrection of Christ) to both the Jews and the Gentiles.
Peter opened the doors of the church, and since then the doors of the church have remained open. Only Peter received this privilege. Jesus said, “I will give you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19, emp. added). There are no individuals, such as popes, opening and closing the doors of the church.

Argument #2: Peter received the power of binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19).

With this argument Catholicism affirms two things concerning Peter: (1) that he received the authority to forgive sins; and (2) that Jesus considered anything Peter would do with His church as approved, authoritative, and good. In other words, Jesus gave him the gift of “infallibility.”
In order to analyze what Jesus said about Peter, we must take into account that the context of Matthew 16:19 is linked to the subject of the church, and not to the forgiveness of sins or the concession of some kind of infallibility about doctrinal matters. A biblical text that can help us understand Matthew 16:19 is Matthew 18:18, where Jesus made the same promise to all His apostles. He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Of this text, Boles has noted, “This is the same thought as in Matt. 16:19. This shows that it has a broader application than that of the discipline of an erring brother. The Holy Spirit would guide the apostles in their instruction to the erring brother and the church” (1952, p. 377, emp. added). In His declaration in Matthew 16:19, Jesus affirmed that the conditions of the Christian system that Peter and the other apostles would expound already had been required by Heaven.
The Greek grammar of these verses sheds more light on the meaning of Jesus’ statement. A.T. Robertson noted that “[t]he passive perfect future occurs in the N.T. only in the periphrastic form in such examples as Matthew 16:19 and Matthew 18:18” (1934, p. 361). Therefore, the text should read, “whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” By saying this, Jesus declared that resolutions made on Earth were subject to decisions made in heaven. The apostles would preach in accordance with what was already bound or loosed in heaven. This was based not on the infallibility of a man, but on the infallibility of the Holy Spirit promised to the apostles in the first century (John 16:13; cf. Matthew 10:19-20). Today we have the inspired, infallible teachings of the Holy Spirit recorded for us in the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Jesus never established Peter as a pope. The titles “Pope,” “Universal Bishop,” “Earthly Head of the Church,” “Pontiff,” and others never came from the mouth of Jesus to describe Peter. Regardless of the privileges given to Peter, his authority and rights were the same authority and rights given to the other apostles of the Lord (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:1-5; 12:28; 2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:11; Galatians 2:8).

WHO WAS PETER?

If Peter was not the first pope, then the question becomes, “Who was Peter?” Was he equal to the other apostles, or did he deserve a position of supremacy among the others? The arguments that establish Peter’s identity may be presented as follows.

Argument #1: Peter was only a man.

Although this declaration is obvious to many, sometimes its implications are overlooked. When Cornelius lay prostrate before Peter (cf. Acts 10:25), he told him, “Stand up; I too am just a man” (Acts 10:26, NASB). With this statement Peter implied three very important points: (a) that he was “too...a man”—that is to say, a man just like Cornelius; (b) that he was “a man”—that is to say, just like all men; and (c) that he was “just a man”—that is to say that he was not God, and ultimately was unworthy of worship. Peter, with all humility, understood that his human nature prevented him from accepting worship. On the other hand, the pope, being just a man like Peter, expects men to bow before him, kiss his feet, and revere him, thus receiving worship that does not belong to him. What a difference between Peter and his alleged successors! Not even God’s angels allow men to show adoration by kneeling before them (Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9). One can only be astonished at the tremendous audacity of one who usurps the place that belongs only to God!

Argument #2: Peter was an apostle with the same authority and rights as the other apostles.

On one occasion, the apostles of the Lord were arguing about who was the greatest among them (Luke 22:24), so Jesus told them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them.... But not so among you” (Luke 22:25-26, emp. added; cf. Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48). Jesus never would have made this comment if Peter had more authority and rights than the other apostles as Catholicism suggests. In fact, if Peter was to be considered more honorable than the other apostles, this would have been the opportune time to clarify this point to the rest of the apostles who were “hungry for another’s glory.” However, Jesus assured them that this would not be the case among His apostles.
On another occasion, the mother of John and James came before Jesus with them, asking Him to allow her two sons to sit by Him in His kingdom, one on the right and the other on the left (Matthew 20:20-21). Jesus pointed out that they did not know what they were asking (Matthew 20:22), and added, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them.... Yet it shall not be so among you” (Matthew 20:25-26, emp. added). If Jesus considered Peter as greater than the other disciples, He could have clarified the issue immediately by telling Zebedee’s wife and sons that they were asking for an honor already given to Peter. But, He did not do that. Today it seems that many religious people want to make it so, and exalt Peter above the other apostles, in spite of what Jesus said.
Many Catholics try to justify their claim that Peter was the first pope by affirming that he was the greatest of the apostles. They declare that Peter was greater because: (1) he always is mentioned first in the lists of the apostles (e.g., Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16; Luke 6:14-16; Acts 1:13); (2) he was the apostle who recognized Jesus as Lord in Matthew 16:16; and (3) Jesus told him to care for His sheep (John 21:15-19). Are these arguments sufficient for establishing the papacy or supremacy for Peter? No. Consider the case for any other apostle. For example, it could be said that John was the “greatest” of the apostles because: (1) in the Bible he is referred to as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 21:20,24); (2) he rested on Jesus’ bosom just before His arrest (John 13:25; 21:20)—certainly a posture that suggests a close relationship; and (3) Jesus charged him with the responsibility of caring for His mother (John 19:26-27). Does this mean that we also should consider John as a pope? If not, should we consider Peter as a pope when all of the apostles had the sameauthority and their own privileges? Indeed, Jesus gave all of His disciples, not just Peter, authority (Matthew 28:19-20).
Finally, consider the words of Paul. He said: “[F]or in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing” (2 Corinthians 12:11). From this verse, we conclude that Paul was inferior to none of the apostles, and that Peter was neither lesser nor greater than Paul.

Argument #3: Peter was an apostle who had the same power as the other apostles.

Some religious people have spread the myth that Peter possessed more miraculous power than the other apostles, and that, therefore, he was greater than the rest. Yet, Matthew 17:14-21 presents the account of an epileptic boy who was brought to the disciples of Jesus (including Peter), but they could not heal him. If Peter had a power that was “more effective” than the other apostles’ power, he should have been able to perform this miracle. However, the boy was healed only after he was taken to Jesus. Jesus then reprimanded all the apostles for their lack of faith.
Near the end of His ministry, Jesus promised all of His disciples that “he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do” (John 14:12). In Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came with power, He empowered not only Peter, but also the rest of the apostles (vss. 1-4). This is confirmed when we read that “fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles” (Acts 2:43, emp. added). There is no doubt that the apostle Peter was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, but that power also was manifested in the rest of the apostles and was never grounds for considering one apostle as being superior to another.

Argument #4: Peter was a man who made mistakes.

Peter committed many mistakes just as any other person. The New Testament records that he: (a) doubted Jesus (Matthew 14:28-31); (b) acted impulsively against his fellow man (John 18:10-11); (c) denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18,25-27); (d) was overwhelmed by his failure (John 21:3); and (e) acted hypocritically before the church (Galatians 2:11-21; Paul “withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed”—a confrontation that would have been considered insolent if Peter was the “head of the church”). We should not belittle Peter, but we must understand that Peter, like all servants of God, had his faults and should never be considered greater than the other apostles, or any other Christian (cf. Matthew 11:11).

CONCLUSION

Neither Jesus, nor the apostles, nor the early Christians considered Peter as superior to the other apostles. He was simply a man privileged to be part of the apostolic ministry and a member of the body of Christ, which is the church. There is only one Head of the church, and that Head is Jesus Christ, not Peter (Ephesians 1:20-22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; et al.).

REFERENCES

Barnes, Albert (2005), Notes on the New Testament: Matthew and Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Boles, H. Leo (1952), The Gospel According to Matthew (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Robertson, A.T. (1934), A Grammar of The Greek New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press).

Was Mary Sinless? by Moisés Pinedo

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2658

Was Mary Sinless?


by Moisés Pinedo


No woman in all of history stands out more than Mary. Her fame is due to the fact that God chose her to bring into the world the long-awaited Savior and Messiah, Jesus Christ. Since Jesus Christ was the greatest Person ever to set foot on the Earth—the Teacher of teachers, the Man Who has changed more lives than any other throughout the centuries, and the One Who gives mankind the opportunity to be free from the bonds of sin—everything associated with His life, His character, and His teachings has been a source of great interest to many. The desire to know more about the Lord has led many to place excessive emphasis on those who were close to Him and uninspired traditions about them.
Questions arise: Who would have been the closest to God Incarnate? Who could tell us, in profound detail, about His nights of infancy, His adolescent anxieties, and the afflictions of His ministry? Obviously, the woman who held the Savior of the world in her arms from the time of His birth, calmed His crying with her lullabies, healed His childhood wounds, and watched Him grow and become a man, would have been closer to Him than any other human being. So, by virtue of her relationship to Jesus, some argue that Mary is deserving of greater honor than anyone else who ever has obeyed God.
Catholics have elevated Mary to a higher level than God ever intended. The supporters of human traditions have united their forces to make Mary not just a “maidservant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38), but rather the “Mother of God.” We will open the Bible to examine the things related to this special woman who “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).
Many assertions have been made about Mary, and many religious traditions surround her. One prominent Catholic declaration about Mary states that she was sinless (see Catechism..., 1994, 491). In reality, this statement implies two things that even some Catholics do not know or understand: (1) Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who came into the world without the contamination of “original sin,” and (2) Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who never committed sin. We will consider these two assertions briefly.
We agree (in part) with the first assertion. Mary was born free of the contamination of Adam’s sin, but she was not the only one. In fact, everyone arrives in this world without the contamination of original sin. The Catholic doctrine, which teaches that all people inherit Adam’s sin (which led to the requirement of infant baptism), originated from a misinterpretation of some biblical passages. It is an example of great familiarity with tradition and very little understanding of the Scriptures. The doctrine of “original sin” has caused many problems for Catholicism. It undermined the high level to which Catholics had elevated Mary, as well as the image of her they created. They had to find a way to preserve the sinless image of Mary that they had created. So, in 1854, policymakers within the Catholic Church “liberated” Mary, stating that she was born without original sin (see Herbermann, 1913, 7:674-675). This allowed her to wear the title “Most Holy.”
Romans 5:12 has been used extensively to support the Catholic doctrine of “original sin.” In this passage, Paul wrote: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” At first glance, this text may seem to support the idea of original sin; however, a proper study of this verse will show that this is not the case.
First, Paul said that “through one man sin entered the world.” Paul did not say that sin entered into every person at birth. Rather, sin became a part of the world in general. Second, Paul said that death entered through sin. This refers exclusively to the death that Adam and Eve experienced in the beginning. Third, Paul noted that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The text does not say that death spread to all men because Adam sinned but because all sinned. It is clear that humanity is the recipient of the consequence of Adam’s sin (i.e., death), but is not the recipient of the guilt of Adam’s sin. Each accountable person dies for his or her own sin (Romans 3:23).
Ezekiel 18:20 declares: “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (cf. Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:30). Since the Bible emphatically affirms that the son does not bear the guilt (or iniquity) of the father, this means that Cain, Abel, and Seth did not carry the sin of their father, Adam. How, then, can we possibly carry Adam’s sin? The truth is that children are born without sin. This is why Jesus said that in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven, one should become like a child (Matthew 18:3). But if children come into this world “dragging” the sin of the first man and, therefore, are contaminated, what sense would it make for Jesus to encourage us to be like them?
A just and righteous God would not (and will not) condemn all humanity for the sin of one man. No man on Earth bears the sin that Adam committed. Mary, just like everyone else in this world, was born without the contamination of any original sin.
But what about the assertion that Mary was the only person (apart from Jesus Christ) who never committed sin? No Bible verse explicitly declares that Mary committed any sin (just as there is no verse which declares that Seth, Enoch, Stephen, Philemon, etc., committed sin), but many Bible verses explicitly state that everyone sins. Therefore, Mary sinned. We should not belittle the impressive biblical record of Mary. But she, like any other human being, needed a Savior to take away her sins.
Paul was very emphatic about this subject: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emp. added). Paul allowed no exceptions. He wrote that all have sinned. There is no doubt that the word “all” includes Mary. Paul agreed with the psalmist’s inspired assessment of humanity: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10; cf. Psalms 14:3; 53:1-3). But if Mary never committed sin, the text should read: “There is none righteous, except Mary.”
It is important to note that the Bible places emphasis on what all, except Jesus, have done (i.e., sinned). One of the major differences between the sons of men and the Son of Man is that we succumb to sin, but Jesus never did. Hebrews 4:15 notes: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (emp. added; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). What praise or honor should be given to Jesus Christ (our High Priest) if He achieved that which a mere human had already achieved? If Mary never sinned, why did God give the high priesthood of the church to Jesus instead of her? In fact, the declaration of the Hebrews writer would lose its power if someone else had already achieved sinless perfection.
Mary herself acknowledged this great doctrinal truth, i.e., that all have sinned and are in need of a Savior. She declared: “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47, emp. added). This fits with what the angel told Joseph about Mary: “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, emp. added). Jesus came to save mankind from the bondage of sin. When Mary recognized God as her Savior, she also recognized that, just as any other human being, she needed salvation. If Mary lived and left this life without committing sin, it follows that she would not have needed a Savior. Why, then, did she refer to God as her “Savior”? If she was sinless, from what was she saved?
Finally, God’s grace for Mary was not earned—but given. Advocates of the doctrine of the Most Holy Immaculate Conception argue that when the angel called Mary the “highly favored one” (Luke 1:28), he implied that she was pure in the highest sense of the word and, ultimately, without any vestige of sin. Nevertheless, the expression “highly favored one” is not intended to emphasize some sort of unique nature of Mary, but rather the nature of God’s immeasurable favor. Verse 30 states: “Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.’” The great peculiarity of Mary’s life is not some sort of unique moral nature that she achieved, but rather the greatness of divine favor and grace that she received from God. Mary understood this point very well and declared: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, emp. added).
If Mary was not exempt from sin, how was Jesus born without sin? As we already indicated, no child bears the iniquity of his or her parents (Ezekiel 18:20). If it were necessary for Mary to have been sinless, in the absolute sense of the word, in order to have a sinless child, then sinlessness also would be required of Mary’s parents, in order to conceive a “sinless” Mary. In turn, all Mary’s ancestors logically would have had to meet the same requirement.

CONCLUSION

We conclude from the Bible: (1) Like every other person ever born, Mary was born without any kind of original sin; (2) like every other person ever born (apart from Jesus Christ), Mary was not exempt from sin and its consequences; and (3) like every other person ever born (apart from Jesus Christ), Mary was in need of a Savior. These biblical facts do not minimize the importance of Mary’s role in fulfilling God’s divine plan to save man. Because of her godly life, God chose this particular young Jewish virgin to bring forth the Messiah. However, she was not sinless. Throughout history, God has used ordinary, imperfect men and women to accomplish extraordinary things, bringing them closer to “perfection” through His Son, Jesus Christ.

REFERENCES

Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), (Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press).
Herbermann, Charles G., et al., eds. (1913), The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press).

Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life? by Moisés Pinedo

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=2665


Was Mary a Virgin Her Whole Life?

by Moisés Pinedo


The idea of Mary’s perpetual virginity is critical to Catholic Mariology (see Herbermann, 1913, 15:459-472). Catholics maintain that Mary was a virgin, not only before and during the conception of Jesus, but also afterward, for the rest of her life. This idea is known as the “Perpetual Virginity” of Mary. But, was Mary a virgin for the totality of her life?
All Christians (or at least those who believe the biblical record is inspired) agree that Mary was a virgin when God’s angel informed her that she was with child of the Holy Spirit. Matthew is plain when he states: “Be­­fore they [Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (1:18, emp. added). Luke records Mary’s question upon hearing that she was to bring forth a son: “Can this be, since I do not know a man?” (1:34, emp. added). The word “know” in Luke 1:34 obviously was used not for “having an idea or notion about a man,” but in reference to “having conjugal relations.” [Mary thought it was impossible for her to have conceived a child since “she did not know a man.”] The word “know” comes from the Greek ginosko and, in the context of Luke 1:34, is “used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between man and woman” (Vine, 1966, 2:298). The Bible clearly teaches that Mary was a virgin at the time of Jesus’ conception (cf. Isaiah 7:14). But what about after giving birth to the Savior?
First, consider Catholicism’s ideas about virginity itself. If they define virginity as “the intact conservation of a woman’s hymen” (the membrane located in the vulva), naturally Mary would have “lost her virginity” at the moment of Jesus’ birth. The Bible records that Mary’s conception was miraculous (Matthew 1:18), but to say that her pregnancy, as well as her delivery, were miraculous would be a forced interpretation of the text.
Second, consider the word “till” in Matthew 1:25 (“and [Joseph] did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son”), in connection with the word “before” in Matthew 1:18 (“before they [Joseph and Mary] came together”). The Greek phrase heos hou, translated “till,” does not necessarily imply that Joseph and Mary had sexual relations after Jesus’ birth. However, as Lewis noted, the rest of the New Testament bears out the fact that where this phrase is preceded by a negative, it “always implies that the negated action did take place later” (quoted in Miller, 2003). Most probably, Matthew’s use of the words “till” and “before” emphasizes an opposite post-condition to a virgin state. Also note that Matthew wrote his gospel account (between A.D. 40 and A.D. 70) after the events of his record had transpired. Thus, if he had wanted the reader to understand that Mary was a virgin for all her life, surely he would have been very clear on that matter. But his wording leads to an opposite conclusion.
Third, as Joseph pondered Mary’s sudden pregnancy (although they had not yet “come together,” according to Matthew 1:18), “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife’” (Matthew 1:20, emp. added). This phrase (“to take to you Mary your wife”), as Barnes noted, means to “recognize her as such, and to treat her as such” (2005, p. 6, emp. added). God’s angel encouraged Joseph not only to take Mary, but to take her as his wife, not as a sister or a roommate for life. The truth is clear: Mary became Joseph’s wife in the absolute physical sense of the word.
Fourth, both Matthew (1:25) and Luke (2:7) record that Mary gave birth to her firstborn son. “Firstborn” comes from two Greek words: protos, meaning first, and tikto, meaning to beget (Vine, 1966, 2:104). In these verses, Jesus is referred to as Mary’s first son, which may imply that Mary had more children after Jesus’ birth. It also is worth mentioning that while Luke referred to baby Jesus as Mary’s firstborn (prototokos; 2:7), one chapter earlier he referred to the infant John (the only son of Zacharias and Elizabeth) as Elizabeth’s son (huios; 1:57). This does not prove that Mary had other children, but adds to the weight of the case against Mary’s perpetual virginity.
Other passages in the New Testament provide evidence to conclude, beyond any doubt, that Jesus had half-brothers and half-sisters who were born to Joseph and Mary sometime after they “came together” (Matthew 1:18). For example, Mark 3 tells us about a disturbance that arose while Jesus was teaching a crowd of people. “Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him” (Mark 3:31, emp. added; cf. Matthew 12:46-50). Mark also noted that the people around Jesus “said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You’” (3:32, emp. added). Not only did Mark identify these people as Jesus’ direct relatives, but he recorded that the multitude (who knew Jesus) identified the same group of people as His family. Additionally, when pointing out the superiority of His spiritual family over His physical family (who was looking for Him), Jesus said: “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:35). Jesus’ statement emphasizes the unique and intimate relationship between Christ and His followers. He did not intend to convey that those who do the will of God are His spiritual cousins, but His spiritual brothers and sisters!
Matthew 13:53-58 is similar to Mark 3:31-35. Matthew records Jesus’ arrival in His hometown, Nazareth of Galilee, where He taught the people in their synagogue (13:54). When the people heard Jesus’ teaching, “they were astonished and said, ‘Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us?’” (13:54-56, emp. added).
Various theories attempt to avoid the fact that Joseph and Mary had children together. One of the theories maintains that the “brothers” mentioned in Matthew 13 were His apostles. This theory fails to recognize that Jesus did not arrive at just any country but “to His own country” (13:54, emp. added). Those who identified Jesus’ brothers and sisters knew very well who Jesus was and who His close relatives were, as evidenced by the fact that they identified Jesus’ family members by name. One reason they marveled at His teaching was the fact they knew His earthly family consisted of ordinary people. It is ironic that many Catholics accept that the phrase “carpenter’s son” literally identifies Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, and that the phrase “His mother called Mary” literally identifies Jesus’ mother, while they deny that the phrases “His brothers” and “His sisters” literally identify Jesus’ half brothers and sisters. What kind of interpretation is that? Furthermore, even though the names James, Simon, and Judas (listed by the multitude) may remind us of the names of three of Jesus’ apostles (Matthew 10:2-4), no apostle was named Joses (Joseph—Matthew 13:55). It is clear that these “brothers” were not Jesus’ apostles. If “His brothers” refers to the apostles, pray tell, to whom does the phrase “His sisters” refer?
Luke offers more evidence that the men referred to as Jesus’ brothers could not be His apostles. In Acts 1:13, he identified the apostles (at this time only eleven) by name. Then, in verse 14, he added: “These all [the apostles of verse 13] continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (emp. added). Paul made the same distinction when he asked, “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5, emp. added). There can be no doubt that “the brothers of the Lord’ about whom Luke and Paul wrote were a different group from the apostles.
Due to the weight of the biblical evidence, few Catholics maintain that Jesus’ brothers were His apostles. Rather, many of them have suggested that these “brothers” and “sisters” were His disciples or followers. But, again, the biblical evidence is overwhelming.
When the people identified Jesus in Matthew 13:53-58, they connected Him with a family composed of a “carpenter,” “Mary,” “His brothers” (James, Joses, Simon and Judas), and “His sisters.” Why would the people refer to Joseph and Mary and then connect them to His “spiritual family” (followers) in order to establish Jesus’ identity? Why would they have named only four of Jesus’ “followers”? John helps us to conclude that these “brothers” and “sisters” were not Jesus’ disciples or followers. In chapter seven of his gospel account, John tells us that “His [Jesus’] brothers therefore said to Him, ‘Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing’” (vs. 3, emp. added). John made a clear distinction between Jesus’ brothers and His disciples or followers. He went on to state that “even His brothers did not believe in Him” (vs. 5). By this time, Jesus’ brothers were not counted in the group known as “His disciples,” those who believed in Him. Luke also makes a distinction when, in Acts 1:14, he identifies a group known as Jesus’ brothers, while in verse 15 he gives the number of the disciples: “[A]ltogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty.” Although by the time the event of Acts 1 transpired, Jesus’ brothers believed in Him and were counted in the number of His disciples, they still were described as having been closely related to the Savior. Truth be told, these “brothers” and “sisters” were neither Jesus’ disciples nor His followers during His ministry.
Is it possible that these “brothers” and “sisters” were Jesus’ cousins or other near relatives? In trying to defend this theory, a Catholic apologist turned his attention to Joses (Joseph), one of Jesus’ brothers listed in Matthew 13:55. He argued that the Jews “never name their sons after their parents.... Therefore, Joseph cannot be the son of Joseph [the carpenter—MP]” (Zavala, 2000c). This conclusion is unfounded. First, tradition may reflect what a majority of people do, but it cannot accurately represent every individual case. It cannot be said that Jews “never name their sons after their parents.” Second, by Jesus’ time, Hebrew tradition had been influenced greatly by Greek and other cultures (e.g., Babylonian, Persian, etc.). As it happens with modern influence (e.g., Latin children called by English names), by this period Jewish tradition was a mixture of different customs. Third, Luke shed light on the Hebrew tradition of naming babies by Jesus’ time. Concerning the immediate time after the birth of John the baptizer, Luke recorded that the “neighbors and relatives...called him [John] by the name of his father, Zacharias” (1:58-59, emp. added). Why would Hebrew relatives and neighbors do so if it was not an accepted tradition? Luke further informs us that when Elizabeth (John’s mother) responded that the child “shall be called John” (vs. 60), they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name” (vs. 61). The conclusion is clear (and shows the lack of Bible knowledge of some Catholic apologists): By Jesus’ time it was acceptable to name a son after his father. Therefore, Joseph (Joses—Matthew 13:55) refers to the son of Joseph the carpenter.
It is true that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament Hebrew) uses adelphos(brother) with a broader meaning to refer to a near relative or kinsman who is not technically a brother. However, this use does not establish the meaning “cousin” for adelphos in the New Testament. As Walther Gunther has indicated, “In no case in the New Testament can adelphos be interpreted with certainty in this sense [i.e., as cousins—MP]” (see Brown, 1975, 1:256). Lewis declared, even more emphatically, “‘Brothers’ (adelphos) never means ‘cousins’ in New Testament Greek” (1976, 1:181, emp. added). Therefore, interpreting adelphos as “cousins” only in New Testament passages that make reference to Jesus’ brothers is an arbitrary exegesis that lacks contextual and/or textual basis (see Miller, 2003).
Paul offers additional circumstantial evidence. When defending his apostleship before the Galatians, he declared that when he arrived in Jerusalem, he “saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (1:19, emp. added). This information fits perfectly with Matthew 13:55, where James is identified as one of Jesus’ brothers. Further, when Jude wrote his epistle, he introduced himself as “a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (vs. 1, emp. added). As a way of confirmation, Matthew identified James and Jude as Jesus’ brothers. [NOTE: Contrary to what some Catholics have declared (e.g., Tapias, 2006; Arráiz, n.d.), this James, brother of Jesus, was not James the apostle (cf. Galatians 1:17-19) and, therefore, was not the son of Alphaeus, but the son of Joseph the carpenter. As far as we know, neither of the two apostles with the name James had a brother named Jude (cf. Matthew 10:2-3).]
If Jesus, indeed, had physical half-brothers, why did He commend the care of His mother to one of His disciples while on the cross (John 19:25-27)? Does this show that Jesus had no brothers who could take care of His mother? No. Jesus’ brothers disbelieved in Him during His ministry (John 7:5). [Apparently they became Jesus’ disciples after His resurrection.] This may have been the principal reason why Jesus trusted one of His apostles to take care of His mother instead of one of His physical brothers. Jesus always prioritized His spiritual family above His physical family (Matthew 12:48-50).
One last point should be discussed. It has been argued obstinately (as a “last ray of hope” for Mary’s “perpetual virginity”) that Mary had no more children after Jesus because the Bible never mentions “children of Mary” (see Salza, n.d.). Why is the specific phrase “children of Mary” needed when so many biblical passages, which we have mentioned previously, clearly indicate that she and Joseph had children together after Jesus’ birth? Do they need the specific phrase “children of Mary” to come to this conclusion? It is interesting to note that while some Catholic apologists refuse to believe that Mary had other children because the Bible does not record the phrase “children of Mary,” they accept and promote ideas and phrases, such as “Most Holy Immaculate,” “Ever Virgin,” “Mother of the Church,” and “Mother of God,” that the Bible does not mention, much less support.
Demonstrating that Mary had more children does not, in any way, impugn her dignity. But to justify their worship of Mary, Marianists have looked for a way to distinguish her from any other woman and elevate her to the level of “sublimely pure”—which, they think, is obtained by means of her “virginity.” When God created man and woman, it was His pure and sublime desire that the two would come together to produce descendants (Genesis 1:28). Since Mary was a creation of God, we know that she could enjoy that blessing from Him. The Hebrews writer tells us that the conjugal relationship between a husband and wife is honorable (13:4), and Paul wrote that such a relationship is necessary for those who are married (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). From all we are told about Mary in Scripture, it is reasonable to believe that Mary, as an obedient servant of our Lord (Luke 1:38), also was obedient in this respect.

REFERENCES

Arráiz, José (no date), “An In-depth Study of Mary’s Complete Virginity” [“Estudiando la Virginidad Completa de María a Profundidad”], [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticacatolica.org/Maria/MariaN01.htm.
Barnes, Albert (2005), Notes on the New Testament: Matthew and Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Brown, Colin, ed. (1975), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Herbermann, Charles G., et al., eds. (1913), The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York: The Encyclopedia Press).
Lewis, Jack P. (1976), The Gospel According to Matthew (Austin, TX: Sweet).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Did Jesus Have Fleshly Half-Brothers?,” [On-line], URL:http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2318.
Salza, John (no date), “Mary: Evolving Doctrine or Eternal Truth?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.catholicintl.com/catholicissues/marysalza.htm.
Tapias, Anwar (2006), “Did Mary Have More Children?” [“¿Tuvo María Más Hijos?”], [On-line], URL:http://www.apologetica.org/maria-hijos.htm.
Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).
Zavala, Martín (2000), “The Virgin Mary” [“La Virgen María”], [On-line], URL:http://www.defiendetufe.org/Maria.htm.

The Roads we travel by EE Healy

http://www.eehealy.com/commentary/a-roads.jpg


How Can I Know I am Saved? by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/know_i_am_saved.html

How Can I Know I am Saved?

Introduction

When one first arises from that watery grave to walk in newness of life, he or she experiences a tremendous sense of relief and comfort. The feeling of safety and security is overwhelming. However, as time passes and sin creeps back into the young Christian’s life, he or she begins to wonder, "Am I still saved?". Since we have previously rejected Calvin's answer that the elect are immutably saved, we must turn to the Scriptures to answer the question, "How can I know am saved?".
First, please note that this question is not about establishing faith in the existence of God or in the inspiration or integrity of God’s written Word. These questions are considered elsewhere. In this article, instead of strengthening trust in the general availability of salvation, we want to find confidence for our own personal salvation.
Second, this question cannot be answered by a simple self-examination of our personal feelings, because our feelings can be very deceptive (Jeremiah 10:23Proverbs 14:12). For example, please consider the apostle Paul, who who committed heinous sins by persecuting Christians, and yet his conscience never warned him (Acts 26:9-1123:1). Similarly, a person may be overly fearful of his standing before God, even though God has accepted him (I John 3:20). Since the feelings of our hearts do not necessarily reflect the true spiritual reality, any trust placed therein is vain at best and damnably misleading at the worst.

"That You May Know"

Although not the exclusive purpose (abstaining from sin and refuting false teaching were others - I John 2:121-26), one of the reasons that John wrote his first epistle is provided here as follows:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (I John 5:13)
Why is it important for believers to know that they have eternal life? Elsewhere, John introduced the occasion for his writing as follows:
The life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us ... And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (I John 1:2-4)
One will never experience "full joy" as long as his heart remains unsure of his eternal fate. It is evident that such uncertainty, if left unchecked, will eventually transform into discouragement, then into depression, and finally into despair and hopelessness, which is ultimately an expression of faithlessness. As was implied by John, knowing that we have eternal life is closely related to our continued belief in Jesus (I John 5:13); therefore, it is critical that we establish a firm basis for justifying assurance in our own salvation; otherwise, we may truly lose that which we fear to have already lost.

First Things First

It should be evident that no one can have confidence in his personal salvation until he has first satisfied God’s simple requirements for obtaining salvation. In other words, one cannot lose what he does not already have. Please consider, that John's epistle, designed to inspire confidence, was addressed to those who had already obtained forgiveness of sins:
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (I John 5:13)
I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake. I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one. I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father. I have written to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one. (I John 2:12-14).
Therefore, John's following solution for confidence offers no assurance to the unbelieving or unregenerate. We must first follow the New Testament pattern for conversion before we can obtain forgiveness of sins; otherwise, we have no hope, much less assurance.
Assuming that this foundation is in place, let us briefly study the first epistle of John, looking for the marks that indicate one possesses eternal life.

Mark #1: Obedience

One of the first characteristics we find in John's first letter is obedience to God’s commands:
"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him." (I John 2:3-5)
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us." (I John 3:24)
If one claims to be a Christian, but generally fails to act like one, then he will be widely regarded as a hypocrite (Matthew 23:1-413-1523-28). Therefore, it is no surprise that one of the first marks proclaimed by John is the disciple's obedience to His Teacher. Again, John records:
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. ... No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (I John 3:6-10 - NIV)
The NIV translation was selected for this reading because it best reflects the ongoing, characteristic nature of the original Greek verbs. John is not saying that Christians do not sin ever, because he previously provided instructions for such occasions (I John 1:792:1-2). Instead, John states that Christians do not live in sin. They are not characterized by sin. They cannot be, if they are true Christians. God’s Word, which they have ingested, will ultimately enable them to overcome, if that represents their true desire. Therefore, we can expect a Christian’s life to reflect spiritual growth and an ever advancing triumph over sin. When such people become entangled in sin, they repent, confess, seek forgiveness, and move forward (I John 1:792:1-2).
Therefore, we should examine our own hearts with the following questions: Is there some cherished but sinful practice that we are knowingly maintaining? Are we excusing select sins with statements such as: "Nobody is perfect!""But, I am not as bad as so and so"; or "I will repent tomorrow"? These excuses reflect an ongoing acceptance of sin, which makes us subject to the very warning of the above verse. Consequently, if our lives reflect any toleration of sin within our own life, even if it is just one practice, then we will find no comfort in the Scriptures. The assurance that John's epistle offers is an absolute rejection of sin. Therefore, "let us lay aside every weight and the sin, which so easily besets us" (Hebrews 12:1), so our hearts can be assured before Him.

Mark #2: Adhering to Truth and Upholding It

As implied by the mark of obedience, we must necessarily adhere to truth and uphold it; otherwise, we will fail to obey God, regardless of our claims (Matthew 7:21-23).
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ... They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (I John 4:1-6)
This passage corroborates the previous point made that we should not simply accept our feelings as being testimony of spiritual things, possibly even assuming them to be intimations from the Holy Spirit. Instead, we are to receive such feelings with skepticism, "testing the spirits, whether they are of God." Please notice that the above passage not only directs us to test the spirits, but it gives us at least one standard of measurement for qualifying them - comparison with the previous messages revealed to the apostles and prophets ("he who knows God hears us"; see also I John 1:2-4I Corinthians 14:37-38).
The above quoted passage provides an obvious point for examining ourselves again, so that we may have assurance: Do we truly love the word of God (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)? Do we recognize and adhere to the message delivered to the first century apostles and prophets? Do our lives reflect a pattern of measuring all thoughts and teaching by the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), or do we simply accept any idea or feeling which seems sensible to us?

Mark #3: Love

The next mark, which indicates our redemption, is our love of the brethren.
"We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. " (I John 3:14-15)
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." (I John 4:7-8)
Please notice that this love is not just a sentimental feeling. Furthermore, this love is more than just words. It is action. Do we love the brethren? What actions sustain this claim? How do we see love? How did God show us His love for us?
"By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him." (I John 3:16-19)
Again, we should pause to consider if we do indeed love the brethren. Do our lives reflect sacrificial love and service toward our brethren, or does it reflect self-serving indulgence?

Mark #4: Faith

After considering the above marks of a child of God, one may wonder if this list constitutes a merit based system of justification, which ultimately places confidence in our own works. However, John corrects this overreaction by listing faith (which necessitates grace) as our final confidence-building mark of the true Christian.
"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (I John 5:1-5)
Please observe the close correlation between obedience, God’s commandments, love, and faith. These marks are inseparably intertwined. One cannot love others, without first loving God and obeying Him, which cannot be accomplished without accepting the revealed commands of God. Ultimately, all of this hinges on our faith.
Our sins, like all of the spiritual reality, exist unseen by human eye. We can no more empirically observe our sins any more than we can emperically observe their forgiveness. Jesus acknowledged this difficulty when he used an observable miracle to prove that He possessed power to forgive unseen sins (Mark 2:5-12). Therefore, regardless of the exact details, maintaining confidence in one's salvation will always require faith (II Corinthians 5:6-8). Consequently, a prolonged resistance to develop confidence in one's salvation manifests an underlying faithlessness in God’s ability to ultimately forgive sins and nurture his children.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives." ... Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. (Hebrews 12:5-12)
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (I Thessalonians 5:23-24)
Admittedly, we have some small part to play, but the Lord has already done what may be considered the "heavy lifting". The part that remains for us is neither impossible nor beyond our grasp (I Corinthians 10:13), only because the Lord Himself placed it within our tiny reach (Acts 17:26-27II Corinthians 10:3-5). However, laying hold on what God has offered to us requires faith, both "that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).
After we learn all the marks that we may develop to assure our hearts before God, and after we learn that He has placed salvation within our reach, if we continue to doubt God’s salvation, then we must recognize that it is not a failure on God’s part. The only failure expressed is ultimately a lack of faith in God and on our part.

Conclusion

At first, one may be surprised, even disturbed that God’s evidence for our personal salvation requires effort on our part. However, please consider that God’s overall plan for man's salvation requires both faith in God’s grace and satisfying conditional works on our part (James 2:14-26). Furthermore, God has provided more than sufficient evidence and assurance to His power to maintain His promise including, but not limited to the sacrifice of Jesus (John 3:16Romans 8:31-32) and raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). Therefore, it should not be considered strange that God’s offering for our individual salvation is somewhat dependent upon us.
In summary, John's epistle, which was written in part to produce assurance in our personal salvation, offers at least four evidences upon which, we may know that we are saved:
  • obedience to God’s commands
  • accepting and upholding God’s Scriptures
  • loving God and the brethren
  • faith in God and Jesus
Although these may be obvious marks in the mature Christian, even the young babe in Christ will manifest some capacity in each of these four foundations for assurance. Furthermore, they provide areas for continued development, which will produce increasing confidence as the new Christian grows.
Christians may have weak moments, when they doubt their own personal salvation, even though they may be the most godly of saints. However, that was never God’s intention, because I John was written to give us the “full joy” and “assured hearts” (I John 1:43:19). Having compared our lives to the marks provided by God through John, if we find each of those marks with good conscience, then we need to trust Him, have joy, and have confidence. However, if we find ourselves lacking, then we know what we need to do! How does your life compare with these marks? Do you believe that they will provide confidence? If so, what will you do to ensure that your spiritual life is full of them, so "that you may know that you have eternal life" and so "that your joy may be full"?
 Trevor Bowen