Questions & Answers Related To...

Assurance of Salvation

+Phil 2:12 says that we must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. How does it fit into the teaching that salvation is by grace through faith?

Here it is important to notice that this scripture doesn’t tell us to work for our own salvation, but work out our own salvation. Many other scriptures clearly say we are not saved by works but by faith (Rom 3:28, Gal 2:16, Eph 2:8), and these scriptures are still valid as we look to understand Phil. 2:12. The message of the New Covenant is clear: we cannot work for our salvation – to obtain salvation. However, after we are saved and salvation is already in us, it shall now be worked out until it becomes visible in our soul (emotions, thoughts and will), body and lifestyle.
after we are saved and salvation is already in us, it shall now be worked out until it becomes visible in our soul (emotions, thoughts and will), body and lifestyle
Salvation in us brings healing to both our wounded soul and our body, as well as transforms our lifestyle and makes our eyes shine. However, even this is not possible with self-effort and our works. That is why in the New King James Bible there is no final end at the end of Philippians 2:12. Rather, the Bible shows that the sentence is not finished, and it continues in verse 13: “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Salvation has been put in us, and now God is at work in us to make it become visible for everyone around us, even for ourselves.

+How can you say that all sins are forgiven when the Bible says in Matthew 12:31-32 that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, neither in this age nor in the age to come?

This can be understood by looking at the context of the verses. Firstly, Jesus spoke concerning the Pharisees and not the disciples. This sin cannot be committed by Christians.

Secondly, exactly what kind of sin is it talking about? Verses 22-23 tell how people saw the miracle that Jesus did and started to believe that Jesus was from God. The Pharisees then said that the spirit in Jesus was not from God but from the ruler of the demons. The Pharisees acknowledged Jesus as a son of man but not as the Son of God. In this context it is clearly seen that to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to deny Jesus as being from God.

On the cross Jesus took all the sin of the whole world, expect ONE sin. John 16:8-9 says that the only sin that remains is to not believe in Jesus. This is the only sin that has not been forgiven and will never be forgiven, and therefore people need to repent from this sin (by changing their thinking/belief) and believe in Jesus. Then surely they will be saved, because whoever believes and confesses Jesus shall be saved.

+Certain teaching says that it is not enough that Jesus is your Savior. Unless He is also your Lord you will not be saved. Is this correct?

There is some misunderstanding around Romans 10:10, where people point out that having Jesus as your Lord depends on your lifestyle. However, we are not saved because of our own works, but because of Jesus' works. He was the perfect Lamb of God who took the punishment for our imperfections.

When Romans 10:10 speaks about confessing Jesus as Lord, it speaks about confessing that it is Jesus that is Lord, i.e. Jesus is God. 1 Cor 12:3 also says that nobody can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. Confessing Jesus as Lord has to do with believing, not doing. Then we do believe that right believing will lead to right doing; this is a fruit of the new creation and the new life.

+John 15:2 says that those who bear no fruit will be cut off. Does this mean that if people have no fruit then they will lose their salvation?

If that were so then we would need to say that the grounds for salvation are “Jesus + us bearing fruit.” Most people would say “no” to this, since we know that we are saved by faith in Jesus alone. The grounds for our salvation is “Jesus + nothing.” Many scriptures show this clearly: Eph 2:8-9, Gal 2:16, Acts 16:30-31, John 1:12, Rom 10:9-10, Rom 10:13, 1 John 5:11-13.

However, sometimes people think that the grounds for keeping their salvation is different; then it is “Jesus + our own work/fruit/lifestyle.” When we see scriptures like this, then we have to study them more carefully, for we cannot add anything to what Jesus has done. He is our only grounds for salvation.

The Greek word for “cut off” in John 15:2 is the word aino. This word has three meanings: “to cut off,” “to take away,” and “to life up.” When the Bible says that Jesus shall be lifted up then the Greek word aino is used. If we use this understanding, we may read John 15:2 like this: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He lifts up.”

This is also what sometimes is done with branches in the natural. If a branch is weak, then it may be connected to a strong branch higher up, so the weak branch can have time to grow and to start bearing fruit. This is also what Paul gives instructions about in Romans 14 and 15 - that the strong shall carry the weak.

Grace

+What exactly is legalism?

We define legalism as a system of living in which a person tries to make spiritual progress or gain God’s acceptance based on what they do. Legalism is focused on behaviour and is therefore an achieving system. Legalism is the opposite of grace. Grace is a system of living in which God blesses us because we are in Jesus Christ and for no other reason at all. Grace is focused on our spiritual birth and is therefore a receiving system. Consider a couple of Scriptures: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13). "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:11-12).

+Does grace lead to a lawless attitude in the Christian life?

The simple answer to this question is "No way!" The Christian who is truly walking in grace is not an antinomian ("one who opposes the Law"). Rather, the person who is walking in grace has great respect for the God-ordained purpose of the Law. In Romans 7:12, Paul said, "So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." Grace-oriented Christians are not "Law-bashers," but, they do understand that the Law has no place in the life of the Christian. Consider the following Scriptures: "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God" (Romans 7:4). "In order that the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:4). "Realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious" (I Timothy 1:9).

+If we are forgiven of our sins past, present, and future at the time of salvation won't that lead to a sinful lifestyle?

This is not a new question. In fact, this was the essence of the concern of those in Paul’s own day who asked, "Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase?” (Romans 6:1). Coming to understand the totality of forgiveness should never lead the believer into a sinful lifestyle. Grace doesn't work that way. Grace enables us to walk in obedience. Grace moves us toward righteousness. Grace overpowers sin. Rules, regulations, and rigorous self-discipline will not keep us from sin but an authentic love relationship with Jesus will.

+Does the teaching of grace lead to passivity in the Christian life?

One of the most common misunderstandings about the grace walk is that it teaches passivity in the life of the Christian. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The grace walk is an active lifestyle energized not by the energy of the flesh but by the energy of the indwelling life of Christ. Consider the example of the apostle Paul. Paul trusted Christ to live His life through him (Romans 15:18) while leading an extremely active lifestyle. Notice Paul's description of his lifestyle in Colossians 1:29, "And for this purpose also I labour, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me." Paul was not passive; he was active. The words "labour" and "striving" in the original language refer to weariness to the point of physical exhaustion. Yet it was not done in the energy of the flesh, it was "according to His (Jesus) power," which was at work within Paul.

+In light of grace exactly how does one live the Christian Life?

The key to victory in the Christian life lies in acknowledging that you cannot live the Christian life out of your own resources or abilities. Only one person has ever lived the Christian life as God intended and that was Jesus Himself! However, there is good news: Jesus wants to live His victorious, overcoming life through you. Perhaps no verse says it more clearly than Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." We live the Christian life by yielding (surrendering) moment-by-moment to Christ, trusting Him to animate us with His very life.

+Is there a danger of overemphasizing grace at the expense of spiritual maturity and personal holiness?

The revelation of grace is the revelation of Jesus and there is no danger of overemphasizing Jesus. The Scripture is clear that believers reign in life by the “abundance of grace” (Romans 5:17) and that the same grace that saves us teaches us to live godly (Titus 2:12). If we want people to live holy, we must reveal the abundant grace of Jesus, because grace is what produces holiness and spiritual maturity. Those who have concerns of an overemphasis on grace often view the grace of Jesus as just another topic of teaching. However, the revelation of grace is the revelation of Jesus Himself and true holiness is only produced through Jesus living through us.

+Will not teaching with a strong focus on grace and righteousness lead people to sin more?

No, these truths will not set people free to sin but rather set people free from a lifestyle of sin. (Romans 5:17, 2 Corinthians 3:9) It will not lead people to sin more but to sin less. More about this question is found in the teaching articles.

Mosaic Law

+How can you say the Mosaic Law is over when Jesus said in Matthew 5:18 that “the law shall by no means pass till all is fulfilled?”

The answer to this question is found in the previous verse: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Law. He raised the standard to an even higher standard (Matthew 5:20-22), and He was the only one able to go through that narrow “eye of the needle” (Matthew 19:24-26). The requirements were then taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14) and Jesus became the end to the law for righteousness (Rom 10:4, Hebr 7:18-19). The old covenant has now been replaced with a new covenant where everything is based on Jesus.

+Even though the Mosaic Law was not able to save us, can it still help us to improve our lives after we are born-again?

If it was not able to save us it will neither be able to improve our lives. The Law is like a mirror condemning us and showing us where we are wrong, but the mirror doesn’t stretch out its hand to help us change. We have to do it in our own power, but it only lasts for a moment. That’s why Jesus came. Romans 8:3-4 says that what the law could not do, Jesus did! He gave us a new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27), and then He Himself moved inside of us and lives the righteous life in us. Our solution today is not to try to improve ourselves, but that Christ is formed in us (Gal 4:19). The Law was a shadow of the good things to come, but Christ is the substance (Col. 2:17, Heb. 10:1). Why hold on to the Law, the shadow, when we’ve got something BETTER - Christ in us!

+Why all this focus on us being free from the Mosaic Law?

This question would take a long time to answer, but let’s look at three of the reasons: 1) The law set conditions for the blessings of God. If we look at ourselves, everyone falls short. However, the Gospel is that everything has been given to us freely with Christ. When people see that there is no condition beside faith in Christ, it makes it easier for them to receive what already belongs to them! 2) The law caused people to sin more, not less (Rom 7:7-8, 7:13). In fact 1 Cor. 15:56 states that the strength of sin is the law. However, when people see they are under grace and not under the Law sin loses its dominion over their lives (Rom 6:14, Rom 5:17). 3) We want to present to people the pure Gospel of Christ, without any mix with legalism.

Righteousness

+Mark 11:26 says that if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses. Does this mean that if people have problems to forgive they are in danger of losing their salvation?

Some people get big problems with this scripture, as the abuses they have suffered are so terrible that they say they are not able to forgive even if they want to. Does God put another burden on their shoulders, telling that He will not forgive them if they do not forgive first? The truth is that this is the pattern of the old covenant, saying that you need to forgive first. In the old covenant we had to do our part first in order for God to do His part, but in the new covenant God has already done His part! That is the good news!

Let’s look at what the new covenant says about forgiveness:

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.” (Colossians 3:13)

Here we can see that forgiveness is still important, but the order has changed! God has forgiven us first, and that enables us to now forgive others.

God has forgiven us first, and that enables us to now forgive others.
Make no mistake, forgiveness is very important, even in order for us to set ourselves free and to allow God’s healing to completely restore us. And this will often be a process. You see, there are some people who have not forgiven others, but there are also many people who have not forgiven themselves for what they have done wrong! And it may eat them up on the inside. How relieving it is to know that God has already forgiven us first! As we understand more of this truth, it becomes easier for us to forgive others and even forgive ourselves.

+Can I grow in righteousness?

No, you cannot grow in the God kind of righteousness. However, you can grow in the understanding of this rightouesness, and that is what Hebrews 5:13 says makes us mature as Christians.

+Will I be more righteous in heaven than I am right here and now?

No, you are just as righteous now as you will be in heaven. You are already perfectly righteous. When you die you just move from your body to heaven, and later you will receive a new heavenly body. However, your spirit and your right standing with God is already new and perfect, and will remain the same in heaven.

+Can a person lose his righteousness?

We never received righteousness by our works or lifestyle, but only through grace by faith in Jesus. In the same way we can never lose our righteousness based on our works or lifestyle. Because we have Jesus we are completely righteous to God. This important truth helps to bring people into assurance of salvation. I understand that righteousness is a gift from God, and that a person will not lose his righteousness if he sins. However, if a person sins, will the righteousness get some “dark spots?” Does Jesus ever get some “dark spots” on His righteousness? Since He is your righteousness, your righteousness will never get any “dark spots”, even if you commit a sin. (1 Corinthians 1:30, Romans 8:33-34)

+I understand that righteousness is a gift from God, and that a person will not lose his righteousness if he sins. However, if a person sins, will the righteousness get some "dark spots?"

Does Jesus ever get some "dark spots" on His righteousness? Since He is your righteousness, your righteousness will never get any "dark spots", even if you commit a sin. (1 Corinthians 1:30, Romans 8:33-34)

+Will not teaching with a strong focus on grace and righteousness lead people to sin more?

No, these truths will not set people free to sin but rather set people free from a lifestyle of sin. (Romans 5:17, 2 Corinthians 3:9) It will not lead people to sin more but to sin less. More about this question is found in the teaching articles.

+As Christians, are we forgiven sinners?

No. This may be a surprising answer to some, so let’s look at it a bit more. According to Romans 5:19 we all became sinners because of one man’s sin (Adam), and we become righteous through one man’s obedience (Jesus). When we got born again the old man (the sinner) died and the new man (the righteous new creation) was born. We are now called saints and righteous, and not sinners. Who are then forgiven sinners, since it is not the Church? It is all the people in the world, not yet being born again. What a wonderful message we have to them: “YOU ARE ALREADY FORGIVEN BY GOD! Jesus has already paid the full price for your sins too, no matter what you have done! Will you now receive Him as your Savior and receive the gift of righteousness and a brand new life from Him?”

The old versus the new covenant

+At what time did the old covenant start? At the time of the book of Genesis, the first book in the Bible?

The Bible contains many covenants. The covenant that is referred to as the old covenant did not start with Adam or with Abraham, but with Moses. The old covenant was based on the Law given to Moses, and was dedicated with the blood of calves and goats. (Heb 9:18-20) This was a covenant God established with the people of Israel.

+At what time did the new covenant start? At the time of Jesus’ birth or Jesus’ death?

Some think the new covenant started at Jesus birth, which is also the way the Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, the Bible states that the new covenant could not start before Jesus died and shed his blood. The covenants of God are “covenants of blood.” Even the old covenant could not be dedicated without blood. (Heb 9:15-22). The new covenant could therefore only be established when Jesus shed his blood for the remission of our sins. (Heb 9:23-27) Jesus himself said “this is My blood of the new covenant.” (Matt 26:28) So the new covenant did not start at Jesus’ birth but at Jesus’ death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. However, when Jesus walked on this earth He was already carrying the sins of the world, and therefore some benefits of the new covenant could be given to individuals in advance.

+Is the old covenant still valid today, running together with the new covenant?

No, the old covenant was only valid until the cross of Jesus. The blood of calves and goats could never take away the sins, only the blood of Jesus could do that. (Heb 10:4, Heb 9:24-28). So the Law was a shadow of the good things to come, but the reality came with Christ. (Heb 10:1) God ended the old covenant and established the new covenant instead. (Heb 10:9, 8:6-8, 8:13) The old covenant had its end at the cross of Jesus. The sacrifices of the old covenant are no longer valid today, and they were never able to remove the sins. Neither is the Law of the old covenant valid to obtain blessings from God today. We are saved and blessed because of Jesus, and not because of our own works. (Eph 2:8-9, Rom 10:3-4, Gal 2:16; 3:5; 3:13-14)

+Please explain Hebrews 10:26: “if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.”

The letter to the Hebrews is written to the Hebrews – to Jews that had received Jesus. We can see that the whole letter is comparing the old and the new covenants, and describing how Christ is the better High Priest, the better sacrifice, the guarantee of a better covenant, etc. This is the context of Hebrews chapter 10. To “sin willfully” in this context is not just any kind of sin, but the sin of renouncing Jesus and returning to Judaism and the old covenant. And this not just for any reason, but because they believed that the blood of Jesus was a common blood and had no value whatsoever. And not just any person, but a person that already was very enlightened and had experienced much of the power of the Gospel. The only problem with returning to the old covenant is that there remains no longer any other sacrifice for sins. The sacrifices of the old covenant are not valid anymore (and they had never been good enough anyway). The only valid sacrifice for sin today is the blood of Jesus. For sure, if they would turn to Jesus then His sacrifice would still be for them. The only sin that is not paid for at the cross is the sin of “not believing in Jesus.” (John 16:9)

+Is there any reason for reading the Old Testament since we are now in the new covenant? Should we now only read the New Testament?

There are many reasons to read the Old Testament. Jesus is revealed in all the books there through symbols, pictures and propecies. (Luke 24:27, 24:44-45) As we read the symbols and shadows in the old covenant, we can more fully understand what we have today in the new covenant, where Christ is the substance! And all the promises of God have now received their fulfillment in Christ. So we may read the old covenant to see the promises, and then we thank God that they have been given to us because of Christ. (2 Cor 1:20). However, it is extra important that we spend much time in the New Testament, and especially study the letters of Paul, which reveal essential truths about the new covenant. This helps us to understand the Old Testament in the right way.