Apologetics

Do Wrong Beliefs about Jesus Hinder or Affect Salvation?

Question: “My wife is a believer in Jesus Christ and on fire for the Lord, but she has difficulty believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God. Will this hinder or affect her salvation in any way?”

I do not think it is the absence of knowledge that damns; rather, it is the despising of knowledge that damns.

One of the things that we know for certain as we read through the Scripture is this: there is only one God. The Scripture is very plain and clear about that. Look at the Old Testament, for example. There is the Hebrew Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NIV).

Now, if you continue reading the Bible, you recognize that the Father is God. The Bible is explicit about that (see John 17:1–3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3–4; Ephesians 1:3;1 Peter 1:3–5).

You also realize that the Holy Spirit is God. One example in the New Testament is Acts 5, wherein Peter condemns Ananias, who lied about selling a piece of property and donating all the proceeds to the church. The Apostle said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God” (vv. 3–4 NIV). In this case, lying to the Holy Spirit means lying to God.

Another example in which the Holy Spirit is equated with God is 2 Corinthians 3:17–18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (NIV; cf. Romans 8:9–11). The Holy Spirit is omnipotent (Genesis 1:2; Luke 1:35), omnipresent (Psalm139:7–9), omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), eternal (John 14:16; Hebrews 9:14), and personal (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13–14; Acts 8:29; 15:28; 16:6; Romans 5:5; 8:14–16, 26–27; 15:30; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Corinthians 12:11; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

The Bible is also very clear with respect to Jesus Christ being God—being of one essence with the Father. For example, Colossians 1, which declares Christ to be “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (vv. 15–18 NIV). Another example is Hebrews 1, which declares, “About the Son [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy’” (Hebrews 1:8–9 NIV; cf. Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 45:6–7). And, of course, John 1 declares “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (v. 1 NIV). Anyone reading through the Gospel of John with an open mind sees Christ repeatedly identified as God. After Jesus demonstrated the power to lay down his life and to take it up again, the disciple Thomas did not identify him as “a god” but as “my God” (John 20:28). The original Greek language of John 20:28 is unambiguous and definitive. Literally, Thomas said to the risen Christ, “the Lord of me and the God of me.”

Moreover, in Romans 10:13, Paul equates calling on Christ with calling on Yahweh (Joel 2:32). And in his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul declares that Jesus, “being in very nature God [in the form of God], did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant [the form of a servant], being made in human likeness” (NIV). Paul goes on to conclude by equating bowing to and confessing the name of Jesus with bowing to and confessing the name of Yahweh, further demonstrating that Jesus is Himself Almighty God (see Philippians 2:6–11; Isaiah 45:22–25). I do not know how it could be any clearer.

The Bible is telling us that there is one God, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. But also the Bible tells us that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct (see Matthew 28:19; John 14:15–21, 26–27; 15:26–27; 16:5–15).

In other words, the Father does not become the Son, and the Son does not morph into the Holy Spirit. You have one God, subsisting in three persons, who are eternally distinct. That is what the Bible teaches.

Now, you say it is hard for your wife to get her head around that; I will tell you, it is hard for me to get my head around that, too. I oftentimes tell people, “If you can get your head around that, your God is too small.” This means that the God we serve can be apprehended but cannot be comprehended. He is beyond our ability to fully comprehend, and that is not only true for this present time but also it is true for all eternity. The Bible is clear that Jesus is God, that the Holy Spirit is God, and that the Father is God, but there is one God with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit being eternally distinct.

What I am talking about again is this: it is not the absence of truth that damns; rather, it is the despising of truth that damns. What I am suggesting is that there can be many professing Christians unable to communicate what I just communicated, but I am not looking at them and saying, “Those people are lost.” That is not my province; rather, that is in fact the province of the Holy Spirit. However, as you read about the Lord — doing what the Lord asks us to do, getting into God’s Word, and getting God’s Word into you (Deuteronomy 6:6–9; Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119) — as you learn more and more about God, you have to follow what God says, as opposed to recreating God in your own image.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Who Is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26?  (Hank Hanegraaff)

If God Is One, Why Does the Bible Refer to Him in the Plural? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Oneness Pentecostalism Biblical? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Allah, the Trinity, and Divine Love (Jonah Haddad and Douglas Groothuis)

We also recommend the following book:

Muslim: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest-Growing Religion (Hank Hanegraaff)

This blog is adapted from the November 8, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics

Understanding Adam’s Fall

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If Mary and Moses were in the Garden of Eden would they have listen to the serpent and eaten the forbidden fruit?

We do not know what would have happened. What we do know is that God created Adam and Eve in such a way that they could feely choose to obey or they could freely choose to rebel. God created Adam and Eve that way because if Adam and Eve were created like puppets then love would not mean anything. The only way that you can know that love is meaningful is if you really have a choice. Adam and Eve truly were able to reject a relationship with the Lord or to love and follow and serve Him. Adam and Eve decided that they wanted to do it their own way and as a result they fell into lives of constant sin terminated by death (Gen. 3; Rom. 5:12-14).

Now we cannot know what would have happened if someone else is in the Garden in their place. We know this that our identity is bound up in the identity of Adam and Eve. We have all fallen into sin because of Adam’s sin. He is our representative but the beautiful thing is that if we receive the second Adam, and in Scripture the second Adam is Jesus Christ, then Jesus Christ will come into our hearts and restore the relationship that was broken by Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:15-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 45).

We know that Moses and Mary are descendants of the first man and the first woman. As a result of that, they bear Adam’s sin. We know that they are fallen and that they needed a savior. Mary needed a savior for she was a sinner and Moses was a sinner and needed a savior.

Now Moses was only able to look forward to Jesus because Jesus had not come yet. He looked forward to Jesus through types and shadows, through civil and ceremonial laws that pointed forward to Jesus Christ. When Jesus came, however, He fulfilled those types and shadows that pointed forward to Him, and those types and shadows were not necessary anymore (Gal. 3:15-29; Heb. 4:14-10:18).

But your question is a good question. We just do not know because we would be speculating. What we do know is that Moses was born in sin and so was Mary.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Original Sin: It’s Importance & Fairness (Clay Jones)

What is Sin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What Must I Do to be Saved? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How were People who lived Before the Time of Christ Saved? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Blog adapted from “Would it have been different if Mary or Moses was in the Garden of Eden?

Apologetics

Unbelief, Alzheimer’s, and Eternity

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How do I witness to a person with Alzheimer’s? She is in her 80s, attended church with her relatives, but remains an unbeliever. Does she need to confess her faith or recite the sinner’s prayer to be saved?

I would say threat her with love, dignity and respect. Care for her in all ways. Testify to her by your life and love. It may be that she cannot remember or recognize your words, but she can sense, feel, and experience your love. As far as a relationship to the Lord is concerned, remember that anyone who desires a relationship with the Lord, the Lord knows about that, He knows the intents of the heart, and He will never cast that person away (Heb.11:6).

Remember Christianity is not a magical religion where you have to have exactly the right incantation and then you’re saved. That’s not the Christian worldview at all. We are saved by God’s grace through faith on account of Jesus Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9), and we recognize that always it is Jesus Christ that knows the heart (cf. 1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 9:46-48; John 2:23-25). We look on the exterior, God knows the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). We cannot factor every single converging condition in a person’s life, but God can do that, and so we leave that person in the hands of an infinitely just and infinitely merciful God, knowing that He will not reject anyone that wanted a relationship with Him.

We can’t sort it all out here, but in the greatest size with people from every tongue, and language, and people and nation, we will see that the Judge of heaven and earth does right. We will then say, “Oh my goodness! He was able to take into consideration every single converging factor, His justice is absolutely pure, and pristine.” You will glory in His righteousness in that day.

—Hank Hanegraaff

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

“I the Lord search the heart

and test the mind,

to give every man according to his ways,

according to the fruit of his deeds”

Jeremiah 17:9-11 (ESV)

For further related study, please access the following: Dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease (Video)

Blog adapted from How can I witness to a person with Alzheimer’s disease?

Apologetics

Why Second Chances Are Impossible in the Afterlife

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Can a person die and have a second chance for salvation? If somebody dies and they either never had the chance or were unwilling in their lifetime to accept God’s love and forgiveness, could after they die God still accept them into the kingdom of heaven?

There is no one who desires a relationship with God who will ever be turned away. But that does not mean that the Bible in any way teaches postmortem evangelism or salvation. It does not. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment (Heb. 9:27).

Here is the situation. In this life we have the light of creation, we have the light of conscious, in other words the knowledge of God written upon the tablet of our consciousness, and if we respond to the light we have been given, then we will receive the light of Christ. Paul makes that clear in Romans 1-3.

The problem is as Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).* It is not that men do not have enough light; instead, it is they love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. It is not the absence of knowledge that damns us, it is the despising of knowledge that damns.

Those that do not have a relationship with God in eternity are those who do not want a relationship with God in time. That those who live a life apart from Christ now are not going to want to be dragged into His presence in eternity. In other words, this is what they want now, and God ratifies their choices. There is no gospel of the second chance in the Scripture at all, and again there’s a reason for it—the reason that I just explained. Those that live apart from Christ here will wish to do that in eternity as well. They’re hearts are hardened against the Savior and His message.

God does not impose Himself on them in eternity; rather, what He does is continue to sustain them in existence, albeit apart from His loving goodness and grace.

The biblical idea is always that God makes salvation available to all. He woos us all through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have to respond to that wooing, or we can reject the wooing of the Holy Spirit. Those who respond to the wooing of the Holy Spirit have everlasting life, those who reject it have precisely what they want. That is why I’m fond of quoting C.S. Lewis at this point, wherein he makes it clear that:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce [New York: Harper Collins, 1946], 75).

If you do not want a relationship with God in time, God will not force Himself on you in eternity. Think about it this way: If God did force people to enter into heaven against their will, heaven would not be heaven, heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven, and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their will, which would be a torment worse than hell.

Now there is one other thing I would add this to the equation: The biblical text in Acts 17, where Paul is at the Areopagus, and he sees a monument to an unknown God, and he begins to preach. In that sermon, he makes this incredible statement. He says,

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:26-27).

In saying that, Paul is making abundantly clear that God puts all of us in unique circumstances so that we can respond to His goodness and to His grace. There will be none in eternity that says, “You know God if only…” No, people get what they want. If they want a relationship with God, God did all that could be done to facilitate that. He suffered more than any man. He suffered more than the cumulative sufferings of all human kind so that we can be reconciled to Him for time and for eternity.

The one God revealed in three persons who are eternally distinct has given us every opportunity to know to love and to receive Him or to reject Him.

It is very clear in Scripture that this our opportunity to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior of our life (Matt. 4:17; 10:5; Mark 1:14; Rom. 13:11-12; Eph. 5:12-14). This is the opportunity to say Jesus is Lord not Caesar or the world is Lord. If we don’t take that opportunity in this life, we are not going to want to take that opportunity in the life to come either. What we want now is indicative of what we want for all eternity.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please see the following:

Is Jesus the Only Savior? The Answer to Religious Pluralism (Ronald H. Nash)

Is Belief in Jesus Necessary? The Answer to Religious Inclusivism (Ronald H. Nash)

Is There Salvation After Death? The Answer to Postmortem Evangelism (Ronald H. Nash)

Universalism Isn’t for Everyone(Doug Geivett)

What about Hell? The Doctrine of Hell (Douglas Groothuis)

The Dark Side of Eternity: Hell as Eternal Conscious Punishment (Robert A. Peterson)

C.S. Lewis on Hell (Louis Markos)

What Happens to a Person who has Never Heard of Jesus? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How were People who lived Before the Time of Christ Saved? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Why Should I Believe in Hell? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here (Hank Hanegraaff)

Blog adapted from “Is there a chance for salvation after death?” and the June 4, 2013 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Apologetics

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and Good Spiritual Fruit Inspection

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Blasphmey of HS

“All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).*

If someone blasphemes the Holy Spirit can they still be saved?

The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not an act; it’s a continuous willful ongoing rejection of the love and grace and mercy of God. So, it’s never something you do once or even twice, it’s an ongoing rebellion against God until the point of your death.

Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers” (Luke 6:43-44). What is he saying about being able to tell by their own fruit?

You can know by the fruit of a tree, whether it’s an apple tree, or an orange tree, or a pear tree—by their fruit you can identify the tree. The same thing is true with the human being. The fruit of that human being identifies them. What you do and what you believe identifies you in terms of who you belong to. Do you belong to Jesus Christ? Are you a follower of the Lamb? Then, you are marked out by your thought life and what you do. Your worldview and what you do demonstrates to whom you belong.

Can you tell whether or not someone is saved?

By their fruit you can know them. Yes, if you have someone who says, “I am a follower of Jesus Christ,” which means that they recognize they’re a sinner, they’ve repented of their sin, they’ve received Jesus Christ and then they have visibly identified with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection through baptism. You can know that that person is marked out for Jesus Christ. By the same token, you can know the difference between an authentic Christian and a person who says they believe but in reality they don’t.

Now, we aren’t absolutely perfect fruit inspectors. We can be wrong. There are people who would have looked at Judas and said, “You know what, there’s the real deal.” But, they would have been wrong. Their fruit inspection would have been deficient. So, we as human beings are fallible, but God is not. He knows who is marked out as bought by the Lamb, and who is marked out as the possession of Satan.

For further related study, please see the following:

How Can I be certain that I’ve not Committed the Unforgivable Sin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Suicide the Unforgivable Sin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

What is the Unpardonable Sin?(Clay Jones)


* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted

Blog adapted from “If someone blasphemes the Holy Spirit can they still be saved?

Apologetics

Faith that Works

Hanegraaff, Hank-FaithWorks

Are works required to keep your salvation?

The point in James, particularly, teaches that we are saved not by works but by the kind of faith that produces good works. And that’s why James says, “What good is it…if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?” (Jas. 2:14).* The rhetorical response, of course, is absolutely not! Just “as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without deeds is dead” (Jas. 2:26)—Faith without deeds is dead.

James goes on to say that a person is not justified by faith alone (Jas. 2:24), and in saying that he means that a person is not justified by mental ascent alone. That’s why he says, “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (Jas. 2:18). In other words, when you work, you are demonstrating that you have genuine faith, the kind of faith that produces good needs, not mental ascent alone, but faith that produces good works.

You are not saved by what you do, but saving faith does cause you to do good deeds in gratitude for what God has so freely given to us.

This is sort of with James when he says a “person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24), and then Paul says a man is justified by faith, apart from observing the law (Rom. 3:21ff; Gal. 3:11; Phil. 3:8-11). These words are in harmony because James is countering the false assertion that a said faith is a substitute for a saving faith—by “said faith” I mean someone just saying they believe—and Paul is countering an equally fallacious notion, and that is the notion that salvation can be earned by observing the Law. No it can’t be earned by observing the Law, but those who have genuine faith will observe the Law because they want to be pleasing to the Lawgiver Himself.

For further related study, please see the following:

What is the Biblical Definition of Faith? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Did James teach Salvation by Works? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Do Works Contribute to or Confirm Salvation? Philippians 2:12 in Perspective (Moyer Hubbard)

Do James and Paul Contradict Concerning Grace? (James White)

Robbing Paul to Pay Peter and James (James Patrick Holding)

Understanding the Lordship Salvation Controversy (Bob Lyle)

Adapted from “Are Works Required to Keep Your Salvation.”

* All Scripture cited from The Holy Bible: New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984), unless noted.

Apologetics

Ash Wednesday 2016

Bible-Rm. 5.8-AshWednesday2Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of the Lenten season. It is a time for Christians to remember their own sinfulness, and need for divine forgiveness.

Sometime ago Gretchen Passantino Coburn wrote a piece on the Lenten season. In it she offered these helpful insights on Ash Wednesday:

Ash Wednesday begins a forty day period during which Christians remember their sinfulness, repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and recognize that God’s forgiveness comes at an infinite price — the death of Christ on the cross on our behalf. It is not meant as a time of false humility or prideful self-sacrifice. It reminds us that our sin separates us from God, who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

The day before Ash Wednesday is popularly known as Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). It has developed into a time of partying and carousing, exemplified by the extravagant celebration in New Orleans. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras attach little or no religious significance to it. Although it is better known than the following day, Ash Wednesday, it is virtually irrelevant to the spiritual focus of Christian observances.

On Ash Wednesday, the historic churches mark the beginning of this period with a special service explaining the season, calling the people to repentance, signifying repentance with ashes, by which a cross is marked on the forehead of the penitent Christian.

Ashes (and “sackcloth,” or rough, plain clothing, usually of camel’s hair) traditionally represent mourning (2 Sam. 13:19; Gen. 37:34), repentance (Job 42:6; Matt. 11:21; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:8, 13), and the judgment of God (Rev. 6:12). When King Ahasuerus ordered all Jews to be killed, Mordecai “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and . . . cried out with a loud and bitter cry.” The Jews throughout the land prayed “with great mourning. . . with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes” (Esther 4:1-3). This was for the dual purpose of mourning for their coming death and of demonstrating their repentance to God, pleading with Him to spare them from His judgment. When Jonah preached God’s coming judgment against Nineveh, the pagan king of Nineveh and his subjects understood that if a nation repents from its evil ways, God may withhold His judgment (Jer. 18:7-10), so they repented and prayed that God would spare them.

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe and covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, “Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?” Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it (Jonah 3:5-10).

Ash Wednesday should remind Christians that they are sinners in need of a savior, and that their salvation comes at the sacrifice of God’s Son.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Heb. 9:11-12).

Hope this has been helpful!

—Warren Nozaki