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March 16, 2005

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Q/A Topics:
Blameless?

READER QUESTION:
what does it mean to be "blameless" before God. I have a friend who did a study on blameless and claims there were 12 people that the Bible mentions as blameless. His contention is that Jesus came to not only die for our sins but to show that we could absolutely live a life without sin - be blameless. I believe that God calls us to strive with all that is within us to obey Him and not sin, but that inevitably, we do sin. Even our "good deeds" are never absolutely pure in motive, lacking in some degree of selfishness or pride, however small. He feels this sort of thinking - that we all inevitably sin - allows people to use as an "excuse" for sin. Your response appreciated.

VW ANSWER:
There are some who believe that a Christian does not ever sin; that if he sins, he lost his salvation by that act of sin; but then, he can be saved again. (I've heard some attach the label "Arminianism" to this doctrine) If I remember correctly, I believe some Nazarenes and other "holiness" denominations believe this; and their weekly invitations have people going forward to be repeatedly RE-saved. Trouble is, Scripture is quite clear that, if a person "falls away" that they cannot be "renewed" to repentance. (Heb6:4-6) But also, that expression the KJV uses, "falls away", is not so much a "falling" as it is to "turn aside". The term "fall" suggests an 'accident'...whereas to "turn" is a 'deliberate' act.

The fact that Christians -do- stumble occasionally and become tainted by the world is quite clear. In fact, if we deny this John says "we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" thus we are to "confess" our sins, and received the advocacy of Christ on our behalf. (1Jn1:8-2:2) Notice the ones John says "sins", who receive advocacy...."My little children"....Believers.

John records that it is "not in our nature to sin" (1Jn3:9); but we -do- sin because we are yet "flesh and blood" which is "not able to inherit the kingdom of God" because our flesh and blood are yet "corrupt". (1Co15:50-54) In Paul's struggles he observes: "with the mind I myself serve the Law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom7:25b) While we are yet in these bodies, our salvation is -spiritual-, as it is the Holy Spirit who "seals" us. (Eph1:13) Notice that it is the Holy Spirit "of promise". It is a 'promise' that, when the "change" comes (Job14:14), we will be included...and we will receive new glorified bodies; having shed the "natural body" and received the "spiritual body". (1co15:44) We don't yet possess "eternal life", but what we have through the Holy Spirit's sealing "promise" is the "hope of eternal life". (Tit1:2, 3:7, 1Th5:8, etc) (More on this in the next question)

Jesus symbolized this when He washed the disciples' feet, and says to Peter, "He who is bathed has no other need than to wash his feet, but is completely clean." (Jn13:10)

The Believer has been "bathed" in the "washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit," (Tit3:5) where we were "buried with Him through immersion into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." (Rom6:4)

This matter of being "blameless" is more of an accounting or legal term. "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Rom4:3) And yet we can look at Abraham's life and see how he also acted in doubt when he sired Ishmael, as Sarah continued to be infertile year after year. When they went down to Egypt during the famine he lied about Sarah being his wife out of fear for his life. These things, done 'after' he had "believed" God, where he was "accounted" as righteous.

It's kind of like when a person stands before the court, accused of some particular crime: How do you plead? Not guilty. And after the case is heard, the judge agrees and "dismisses" the case. In other words, the judge agrees: "not guilty". In other words: "blameless". Although, the person may truly be guilty of other tiny little infractions and misdemeanors...but is not being held accountable for them.

That's an -earthly- court of law. But before God, the only thing we can plead is "guilty". And that's what salvation is, that God 'waives' the penalty due to Christ's propitiation, having paid the debt, so the case is dismissed, "paid in full", and now as far as the Heavenly Court is concerned, the debt having been paid, the defendant is now -declared- "justified" (Rom5:9, 1Co6:11) or "righteous". There is no "blame" held against the Believer, thus, they are "blameless".

Kind of like David. We might look at his time while running from Saul, when he 'defected' to the Philistines for a time as a time of lack of faith? On one occasion, to extricate himself out of a situation he had gotten himself into, he even found himself feigning madness. (1Sam21:13) But in looking at history, what was God's verdict upon his life? "...because David had done what was right in the eyes of Jehovah, and had not turned aside from anything that He had commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." (1Ki15:5)

God looks at us and "...He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust." (Ps103:14) Thus, we can see all the warriors of faith in Hebrews ch11, and see people whose lives contained failures along the way...but for the historic record they are called saints of "faith". In God's Book they are accounted as "blameless".

Those who are accounted "blameless" are not those who have never sinned, "for there is no one who does not sin" (1Ki8:46); but on whose account...

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Ps103:12) and "...He adds, Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." (Heb10:17)

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Possessing Eternal Life now? (re: "Blameless" above)

READER QUESTION:
I was slightly "bothered" by a comment you made in your last mailing - that we don't yet possess "eternal life" (Tit1:2, 3:7, 1Th5:8, etc).

This got me thinking ...

I can see your point, and that this is supported by certain Scriptures. But at the same time, Jesus said that "Whosoever believeth in him [the Son of Man] should not perish, but have eternal life"; (Jn 3:15) that "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life" (Jn 6:54); and that "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life" (Jn 10:27-28).

Paul then told Timothy to "lay hold on eternal life" (1 Ti 6:12; 19); and John said that "this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you ... that ye may know that ye have eternal life" (1 John 5:11-13).

Yet as you say, Titus only talks about the "promise" of eternal life, as does John (1 John 2:25). And Jesus said that those who, for His sake, had forsaken worldly passions in this age would receive eternal life "in the age to come" (Mark 10:30).

The question, then: Do we, or don't we, have eternal life as a present possession? Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

VW ANSWER:
Yes, we are "promised" Eternal Life; the Holy Spirit has "sealed" the promise; we have "hope" of it; and indeed we are exhorted to "lay hold" and cling to it.

But what is the 'nature' of what we presently possess? The very fact that you-all are -reading- this e-mail indicates that we-all are yet on this earth. We are, obviously, not yet in Heaven (are there computers and the internet in Heaven?). Jesus promised to "go prepare" a place for us, and to "come again" to "receive" us to Himself. (Jn14:2-3) Computers and e-mail are aspects of this world; we still see 'sin' all around us, and we each sometimes get our feet 'dirty' in it. We are yet "flesh and blood" which is "not able to inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption." (1Co15:50) In our present state, in these "natural bodies" (1Co15:44) we are yet subject to death. That is hardly "Eternal" or "life", now, is it.

But here's the deal...

"Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has -SEALED- us and given us the -EARNEST- of the Spirit in our hearts." (2Co1:21-22) See also: 2Co5:5 And within the other context where Paul tells how the Holy Spirit "seals" us, the next verse -defines- the Spirit as the "...EARNEST OF OUR INHERITANCE UNTIL THE REDEMPTION OF THE PURCHASED POSSESSION.." (Eph1:14) (You can read past mentions of this in the "Ephesians" study series at the Library. I think we have likely also spoken of this in relationship to the OSAS doctrine, how a person, once having put down the earnest, might back away from the deal, forfeiting the deposit...in this case, salvation. Heb6:4-6, those who "draw back" Heb10:38-39, Lk8:13)

To review: what is the "earnest"? When a house is being purchased, the buyer puts down some "earnest" money, as a "good faith" gesture 'promise' to the fact of their true intentions to buy the house. Typically, unless the seller rejects the buyer's offer, this earnest is non-refundable, should the buyer back out of the deal. That's part of the reason for the earnest, so that the seller has to deal with only bona fide (good faith) offers.

This "house" example is a little backwards from our salvation...but it serves an example of what we are talking about....

The couple (husband and wife) have looked at this house, and they have "fallen in love" with it. They REEEEALLLY want it! They sign the preliminary papers of intent to buy, making an offer of a purchase price, write out their check for the non-refundable 'earnest' money....and everything is submitted through the realtor to the seller. So now they 'wait' to hear from the seller. The phone rings, and the realtor tells the wife the seller has accepted the offer, so she hangs up, squealing with delight, "The house is OURS! It's OUR house!" Perhaps some friends come around for supper/visit, and the couple takes them over to see the house..."Look at -OUR- house!"

However...officially, it is not yet legally in their 'possession'. They have not yet paid the remainder of the purchase price, they have not transferred the utilities to their names, they have not yet moved in, they don't even yet have the keys....so as they joyously show THEIR new house to their friends, they cannot even take them inside. But it is -THEIR- house due to the 'understanding' through that "earnest" process. And their "hope" to 'move-in' is not a question of "whether" they will move it....but "when" do they get to? How much 'longer' will it take to finalize the legal aspects of title transfer, etc?

But the "purchased possession" hasn't yet been "redeemed". (Eph1:14)

Or said another way, somebody has a lottery ticket (I don't condone this practice...but it does provide us an example in this case), and they see the numbers pop up on the TV screen as the balls come rolling down the shoot, and find they have the jackpot ticket. They start jumping up and down, shouting and squealing, "I won! I won! I'm rich! I'm a millionaire! I won!" But...at the 'present' moment while they are thusly excited, their bank account is still overdrawn and they are deeply in debt...even though they have just "won" the lottery. They yet need to go to wherever it is they cash in (redeem) their slip, to receive their winnings, where the money actually goes into their account. They "won", but they don't yet "have" it...but they excitedly "hope" to go the next day to redeem their winnings.

In the same way...yes.... we -HAVE- Eternal Life; the Holy Spirit has sealed the deal. The "earnest" is the Holy Spirit residing in us. (Rom8:9) But we are not yet in Heaven, in God's presence; Jesus hasn't yet come to get us...but we have "hope" of it. And this "hope" is not a question of "if" we will go, but "when", as we are "eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Rom8:23)

Yes, due to the Holy Spirit's "sealing", we do presently possess Eternal Life; but we haven't yet received the keys, nor have we moved in and got the utilities all transfered into our names yet. Right now all we can do is drive over, 'point' to it, and rejoice to everybody how it is "ours", and how we will 'soon' be moving in.

All we can do is wave the lottery ticket around in the air, showing it off as the "winning number", and boast how we are "going to" go cash it in for the "big money".

Hopefully this makes sense?

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Other Sheep? (Jn10:16)

READER QUESTION:
Can you explain John 10:16 to me? Who are the 'other sheep?' I really thought I had a 'handle' on this chapter, but this morning I am having my doubts. I am thinking that the 'other sheep' are Gentiles, but I know you will have the correct answer for me - thanks!!

VW ANSWER:
During Jesus' ministry He said, "I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Mt15:24) and when he sent the disciples out to preach He also commissioned them to go, not to Samaria or the Gentiles, but to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt10:5-6)

Then, as His ministry winds down, as He is headed to the cross, He explains how He is going away to the Father, and how His hearers cannot follow Him, so they speculate as to 'where' He is going: "He does not intend to go to the Dispersion among the Greeks and teach the Greeks, does He?" (Jn7:35) There are those today who would call those the "lost tribes"....and there is an entire cult built around the notion called: "British Israelism" in which they include the British Commonwealth and USA.

There are some others today (including the Mormons) who go wild and crazy, teaching doctrines of life on other worlds and solor systems in the universe, teaching from this that Jesus also had to go save other "life-forms" and/or "species" throughout the universe.... you know... UFOs and Star Trek, etc. Not understanding that God made this earth for man...."I have made the earth, and created man on it; I, with My hands, have stretched out the heavens; and all their host have I ordained." (Is45:12) "...since man was placed upon earth," (Job23:4) And it was through man that sin came to the world (Rom5:12) Sin, its fatal consequences, and Christ's redemption from it, are -earthly- parameters...of -this- world. God created the "heavens and the earth" (Gen1:1)...any other 'worlds' (out there) are part of the "heavens", as distinct from the "earth"....where God ordained that man resides.

But I think Scripture is pretty clear, and you are on the right track. Yes, Gentiles.

After the cross, Jesus commissions the Gospel to be preached, starting at Jerusalem, and spreading out to Samaria and to "the ends of the earth" (Ac1:8) to go to "all nations". (Mt28:19) Paul expresses the Gospel as going "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom1:16, 2:9-10) And to the Gentiles Paul teaches how both Jew and Gentile, alike, are made "one" through Christ and brought in reconcilation to God. (Eph2:11-17) And this was given in the O.T. as Isaiah prophesies to rebellious Israel: "And you shall leave your name as a curse to My elect; for the Lord Jehovah will kill you, and call His servants by another name." (Is65:15) God's servants, by another name, the "Church" or "CHRIST-ians". This is the cutting away of the natural branches, to graft in the branches "contrary to nature". (Rom11:17, 24,etc)

Jesus was prophesied in the O.T. as a "light to the Gentiles" (Is42:6, 60:3, Lk2:32, Ac26:23, etc) Jesus came "to His own" who "did not receive Him" (Jn1:11), and as they rejected they were continually told that since they rejected, the Gospel was being taken to the Gentiles, and they would hear. (Ac28:28)

The "one flock and one shepherd" ....does that not describe the Church, comprised of both -believing- Jew and Gentile, as described by Paul in Eph 2:11-17.

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