Why Do I Doubt? The One (Major) Reason Christians Doubt Their Salvation

When Christians begin to have doubts about their salvation, they usually consult their pastor or another trusted spiritual advisor. If you ask your pastor why you are doubting, you will typically get three responses: unconfessed sin, hidden sin, or you’re under conviction, needing true salvation.

I remember sitting in my pastor’s office during great times of doubt and despair and hearing these things. Time after time, I would return home and begin the process of self-examination. Certainly there were times of unconfessed sin and I knew it. But confession and turning away from that sin didn’t seem to ease my conscience. Eventually, I came to the conclusion (about a thousand different times) that I just wasn’t saved, that I was one of those Matthew 7:21 people. You know? The ones that think they’re saved because they appear to have a sliver of holiness but are really on their way to Hell.

The entire process was painful. Every. Single. Time.

But the real culprit for my despair was something that I had never considered. This enemy had slipped into my church, sneakily subverting the comforts of the gospel from mine and thousands of other Christians minds. His name was False Teaching!

Most of us think of false teaching as a blatant perversion of the gospel; things like works-salvation, denial of the deity of Christ, rejection of the Trinity, etc. But there is a more subtle form of false teaching that has invaded our modern-day churches. This teaching tends to distract the eyes from the objective promises of the gospel to focus inwardly or elsewhere. Specifically, there are four areas of false teaching that causes Christians to go into despair and doubt their salvation. Let’s examine them, together.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio: https://www.pexels.com/photo/desperate-evicted-male-entrepreneur-standing-near-window-3771129/

Conflation of Law & Gospel

Mixing of the Law & Gospel is perhaps the main premise of Christian doubt. In Scripture, these were meant to be separated but not mutually exclusive to each other. For this reason, it’s easy to conflate the two and launch our consciences into terror. Keeping these two aspects of Scripture within their proper places is vital. The Law demands that we fulfill obligations to God, threatening us with punishments if we do not fulfill them and promising blessings if we do fulfill them. The gospel, on the other hand, only offers us promises without the expectations of performance. It is based entirely upon the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. While the Law pays its dues for kept or unkept covenants, the Gospel knows no such payment. The payment was made at the cross. Let the Law, therefore, be proclaimed to yourself if you find you are reveling in your sin. But if you have cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness, let the comforts of His promise to forgive your sins soothe your heart and conscience.

Checklist

One of the greatest dangers to Christians is the checklist. When we fall prey to it, we begin to not only judge others but ourselves also. We concoct an idea that holiness comes from avoiding certain activities that God is unpleased with. If we avoid these, God is happy. On the flip side, if we exert our energies in certain areas we know we should be engaging, God is sure to smile upon us and bless us. The checklist is simply another way of commingling Law and Gospel. The only difference is that we have made the conditions of blessings and curses instead letting Scripture dictate them. The negative of the checklist is that our consciences go into the self-loathing gear when we don’t or can’t check off our presupposed holy activities. If we do happen to go several days ticking all the boxes, we become conceited, looking at others and wondering why they have not yet attained to the joy of supernatural living. Obviously God demands holiness of His people. We are not to avoid the whisperings of the Law in our ear when we sin but neither can we replace the Gospel with our checklists. It will always be a fine line and we must develop the skill of properly dividing the two.

A focus on self

When I talk about self-focus, I’m not talking about meditation or yoga or some other form of Eastern religion. Self-focus is the habit Christians have of inner reflection of their sanctification. In other words, if they have been a Christian for 𝓍 number of years but seem to have only come 𝓍 miles in their Christian walk, they begin to doubt their salvation. After all, the pastor stated this in his last sermon. He is the spiritual leader. He has had the theological training. He must be right.

Wrong!

Most of us view the Christian life as a continual upward journey. But the Christian life is full of ups and downs, failings and victories. It looks more like a jagged mountain edge than a gradual ascending. When we focus on our own progress and sanctification, we will see nothing but sin and failing. As the hymn writer wrote with all truth,
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.
Even after we are saved, we are prone to follow our flesh. We continually fight our sinful desires. The majority of self-examination passages in Scripture have to do with those indulging in gross sin while naming Christ as their Savior. When these verses are taken out of context by well-meaning pastors, it often harms much more than helps. The only solution is to look to the objective promises of the Gospel. What does this mean? An objective promise is something that is ultimately true, regardless of your feelings and doubts. It is an objective fact that Jesus was crucified for your sins and raised from the dead for your justification. It is an objective fact that He promises forgiveness of sins in His Name. It is an objective fact that all who believe on Him and call upon Him receive this promise. Instead of trying to find the goodness within yourself (you won’t find it) look instead to these objective promises and let your heart be assured.

Rejection of the Sacraments

Many scoff at the idea that the sacraments can ease our consciences and bring assurance of the gospel to us. This comes from a misunderstanding of what a sacrament is. It is an earthly, visible element which has a promised Word of God attached to the element. For example, in baptism we are promised the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Mk 16:16, Acts 2:38). The Lord’s Supper promises that all who partake of the body and blood of the Lord receive the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:26-29). The majority of today’s churches have reduced the sacraments down to mere symbolism, thereby rejecting the efficacy of those sacraments. Baptism symbolizes our union with Christ. The Lord’s Supper symbolizes our participation in His death.

The sacraments were instituted by Christ for a reason. He never spoke of them symbolically and neither should we. For the first 1500 years of the Church, these promises were taken as they stand in Scripture, literally not symbolically. When pastors began to forsake the plain meaning of these passages for a symbolic view, their laity lost with it the precious promise of assurance and comfort with it. God knows our weaknesses and considers our plight to need these visual reminders that His promises are for us. Most would object and accuse those who hold to this view of living by sight instead of living by faith. “After all,” they would argue, “true faith needs no other object but Christ.”

Scripture is replete with God’s visual signs for His people. Again, most people would object by claiming that the majority of these signs were Old Testament signs, before the promised word of the Gospel. But are we now any different than those Israelites? Are we any less prone to unbelief when they had the physical manifestations of God in their midst while we have the presence of God dwelling within us? Even in the New Testament, God’s people were given physical, visible signs of Jesus’ coming. Even the book of Hebrews classifies spiritual gifts with the physical manifestation of God’s promises. If God used ordinary physical means to assure us that His promises are true and real, we have no reason to reject the sacraments based solely upon a different theological perspective. Receive the sacraments and rest assured that the promise attached to it is indeed a promise you may objectively cling to.

Conclusion

Doubt comes through the false teaching of failing to properly distinguish between Law & Gospel. All of the things mentioned above are some form of mixing the two together. Our hearts will be more assured and our consciences will find the peace we search for as we learn the skill of properly dividing Law & Gospel. For more information on properly dividing Law & Gospel, you can read this section of Luther’s Large Catechism. God bless you as you seek to cling to His precious promises of forgiveness and assurance.

To Thy Wounds I Flee

Too often, it’s easy to drown in depression after sinning. Without too much commentary, I hope this original poem will encourage you to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, even when you don’t “feel” like you deserve it. Happy pre-Lord’s Day. Meditate on His grace and mercy given to you at the cross.

To Thy Wounds I Flee

When sin overtakes me

and my conscience berates me

for undying mercy I grieve

If guilt here, besets me

and grief shall come o’er me

to Thy wounds I will flee

Thy wounds, they bleed for me

Even though guilty, I be

Mercy and love have spilt out Thy blood

O Lord, to Thy wounds I flee


When life’s tempests plague me

and Satan upsets me

so that from righteous living I cease

When earthly friends scorn me

or the wicked adorn me

to Thy wounds I will flee

Thy wounds, they bleed for me

Even though guilty, I be

Mercy and love have spilt out Thy blood

O Lord, to Thy wounds I flee


When all else has failed me

no vain things availing

Then only Thy beauty I may see

When my heart has beguiled me

to seek One besides Thee

to Thy wounds I will flee

Thy wounds, they bleed for me

Even though guilty, I be

Mercy and love have spilt out Thy blood

O Lord, to Thy wounds I flee

© Steven Long 2022

Sentence Diagramming – The 8 Parts of Speech

Here is the second part of the sentence diagramming tutorials. In this video, we will cover the 8 parts of speech. Although not glamorous, knowing the parts of speech is vital in understanding sentence structure and being able to break a passage down. The video is below.

Sentence Diagramming – Resources

In my last post, I mentioned sentence diagramming as a way to help read and understand the bible. I am starting a sentence diagramming series to aid bible readers to do just that. The first video in the series is below. Also, check out the downloads section to download relevant resources.

Downloads

English Grammar Revolution

Let’s Diagram web app

How Do I Rightly Divide?

This site focuses on interpreting and apply God’s word correctly. Over on the Study Aids page, you will find resources to help you do just that. But the question that may come to mind is, “How do I know I’m doing it right?” This post seeks to answer that question. Here are some practical ways to start learning how to rightly divide!

Read well

This involves more that just a perusal of our daily reading. Most of us are guilty of rushing through our morning readings in order to check off our daily Bible reading list. We miss so much when we do this. Though it’s good to read as much Scripture as possible, it really pays big dividends to slow down and notice things. For example, why did the author use a specific word? How does this paragraph fit in with the rest of the book? When we slow down, we begin to notice much more than we would with a rushed reading. Try to focus on transitional words like conjunctions. Take the time to notice the action verbs in each sentence. Read the introductions in your study Bible to get a quick overview of the who, what, when, where, and why of the book. Introductions also give us the themes of the book many times. The main theme is something that needs to be kept in mind with each verse we read. In other words, slow down when you read. Take a deep breath and breathe in the gospel air.

Learn grammar

Photo courtesy of Nenad Stojkovic

This kinda goes along with my last post. If we’re gonna slow down and notice the conjunctions, prepositions, and participles, we need to know what they are. More importantly, we need to know how they function. I’m not suggesting going back to school and becoming a grammar teacher. I’m simply saying that it would take your reading to the next level to refresh your grammar skills. If you’re not sure where to start, just follow this link. It’s a great site and it’s well-organized to help you with each topic.

Write notes

Photo courtesy of Rawpixel

Notice I said ‘notes’ not your own thoughts. We often confuse the two. Why is this so important? Because we often inject the text with our interpretations instead of letting the text speak. Instead of writing down what we think the text means, simply use the 5WH method–who, what, when, where, why, and how. When we prematurely interpret a passage, we miss what the real reason the author was trying to convey to his audience. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the interpretation of any given text will be the same as it was to the biblical audience. All we need to note, are the things the author said. Anything beyond that, at that point, is simply conjecture.

Learn Greek

Logos Bible Software Greek Tutor

This may sound a little high and holy, but with the amount of resources we have, there is really no excuse for not at least learning the basics of Greek. The internet abounds with free resources to learn the biblical languages. One such site is Biblical Training. They offer videos of Bill Mounce’s Basic Greek Grammar lectures. And the videos are absolutely free to watch. You won’t become a Greek scholar, but at least you’ll get a grasp on the basics of the language. Biblical Training also offers several other classes, all free. There are also paid options to take certificate training classes. So hop on over there an increase your biblical knowledge by enrolling in one of their many course.

Bible Software

A screenshot from my Logos Bible Software

I’m a huge advocate for bible software–especially for Logos Bible Software. Bible software really streamlines your study. But there is a catch: it can be pricy–very pricy! However, there are a number of benefits that it offers that you just can’t beat. First, most bible software pulls resources from your library that is relevant to the passage you are already studying. This means saving tons of time trying to flip through commentaries, dictionaries, and map books trying to find the relevant passage. Most resources will pop open to the passage that you type into the search box. “But what about the price?” you ask. Luckily, there are a number of free bible software packages and websites that allow you to gain significant insight into your chosen passage. Of course, paid software will always be better, but if you’re on a tight budget, check out the free stuff below:

The Word – this software is excellent for free software! There are several download options and there is even a repository to download user created modules. All-in-all, you download hundreds of resources for absolutely free.

E-Sword – E-Sword is much like The Word. I’ve used both, but in my opinion, The Word trumps this software. Much like its counterpart, there is a site where you can download additional modules. Be aware that only the PC version is free. If you’re on a Mac, there is a Mac version that costs $10 to download.

Bible Hub – this site is very helpful with several English bibles, commentaries, and original language helps. I used this site pretty extensively before committing to buy software. It was a real life-saver as I studied in preparation for my Sunday School classes.

Study Light – this site is comparable to Bible Hub. There are few slight differences such as the ability to listen to audio bibles. In my opinion, it doesn’t offer as much, but nonetheless, it is still helpful for studying.

Olive Tree – Olive Tree was originally designed for the mobile platform, but also has a free desktop version. There are several free modules you can download, but to get the most out of the software, you need to purchase their Bible Study Packs.

Paid Software – there are only three main software packages that one can purchase. Before downloading, I would strongly caution one to examine the specific needs. If you are simply wanting to enrich your personal study, one of the free options will do just fine. If you are a theology student or in a pastoral or regular teaching position, you may want to consider one of the paid options.

Logos Bible Software – in my opinion, this is the best software hands-down. It’s pricy, but if you’re into original languages, ancient texts, and Greek grammars, this software is for you! It has a variety of tools that are useful and saves tons of time by pulling from your entire library only the resources that are relevant for your passage. Be aware, there is a steep learning curve. But that it is to be expected with any purchased software.

Accordance – this was originally a Mac-only version, but the developers eventually came out with a native PC version several years ago. It is inferior to Logos, in my opinion. But you certainly do get a bang for your buck in the number of resources that come with each package. I’m not as familiar with the interface as I am with Logos, but it is clean and pretty simple to use.

Bible Arc – this is not a download as much as it is a web app, but the site is working on a downloadable version. The cost is relatively cheap, $5/monthly, and you get a number of modules along with tutorials on how to use each one. They also offer classes on certain courses for a fee. The site focuses on methods of analyzing entire paragraphs as opposed to the other software packages that focus solely on the text. Biblearc’s real strength is in its ability to do Discourse Analysis, which is very important in determining the overall context of a passage. It focuses mainly on the relationships between sentences and paragraphs. Still, it is a very helpful site that will help you study God’s word.

Everyone of the the things listed, is what this author has used at one time or another. I can attest to the validity of the usefulness of each tool. I hope you will be encouraged to dig deeper into God’s word as you examine these resources and decide which one is most beneficial to you.

Rightly Divide! Why You Should Learn the Lost Art of Sentence Diagramming

I’ve harped on a previous post reasons why sentence diagramming is helpful for studying and exegeting a biblical passage. In this post, I hope to give some reasons why a person would want to bother learning to diagram at all. Here are some reasons to learn all that grammar jargon and all those nonsensical nuisance shapes.

Sentences are structured with purpose

Most people have a main idea along with their sub-ideas they are trying to convey when they write. Typically, we don’t write willy-nilly unless for practice. There is purpose behind every letter, word, sentence, synonym. If we feel our message is that important for the person who is going to receive it, how much more the biblical authors felt as they wrote to the fledgeling churches and Christians? I’m certainly not suggesting they “diagramed” their own writings. But it is most certain they took great care in the wording and structure of their epistles and biographies. It was common practice for one to use an amanuensis (an ancient secretary) to pen their words and then to sign off on the letter before it was distributed. We see this in the book of Romans. As chapter 16 comes to a close, we understand that someone named Tertius actually wrote Romans, but the letter was approved by Paul before being sent out to the churches. In short, don’t dis proper grammar and sentence structure.

God spoke through grammar

Photo Courtesy of Beinecke Library

God has given us His written word for our comfort and assurance. This word includes things such as pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and participles. It seems unpleasant to have to learn all this stuff, but if it is viewed as a high and holy thing of God, it becomes less burdensome. Unfortunately, there’s not much glamour in learning grammar. You just have to dredge your way through it. Do it anyway! Make the best effort you can make. And no matter how tough it gets, don’t give up. A better understanding of grammar means a better understanding of God’s written word to us.

Diagrams help visual learners

Photo courtesy of The Tasmanian Archives and The State Library

Some people learn easier when they study a picture. Sentence diagrams are simply “pictures” of the sentence structure. Each word is placed according to its function in the sentence. Once these placeholders are memorized, it expedites the learner’s awareness of how each word is being used. Visual aids are always a helpful tool.

How do we go about learning diagramming? The internet has become a plethora of information. You can learn just about anything you desire by simply Googling the topic. But if you’e still not sure where to go, I’ve listed some great resources for you below. These will get you headed in the right direction.

English Grammar Revolution–this site is my go-to place for a grammar refresher. There are plenty of videos, exercises, and instructions to take you from beginning grammar student to Diagram Guru in their short and well-explained tutorials. The site is also divided nicely into their respective sections. Each section builds upon the previous, so be sure to read them in order.

Let’s Diagram Web App–Once you start learning sentence diagramming, you’ll need a place to practice. Why write it out when you can simply drag and drop all of your sentence elements onto a canvas? The web app allows you to type or paste any sentence, including bible verses, into the box and then diagram them. Be aware though, that the app costs $5/monthly to use. The free version only gives you five sentences a month. You’ll need much more than that to practice, so shell out the money for a few months. You’ll be glad you did! Below, is a video tutorial on using the web app.

Video tutorial of the Let’s Diagram web app.

The last resource I would like to share with you comes from a middle school grammar book published by Glencoe McGraw-Hill publishing. It’s pretty fascinating considering that most public schools have stopped teaching this lost art form. Below is a PDF of the book. It walks you through all the necessary steps of sentences and gives ample examples of sentence constructions that may be confusing to students when they first encounter them.

I hope this post has encouraged you to delve a little more into learning well the grammar and language God used to convey His precious message. God bless you seek to learn and study the bible in all diligence!

Concord Echoes

For quite sometime, I have been wanting to publish articles that deal with the distinctions of Lutheran theology. However, I also wanted to keep this site dedicated to the proper interpretation and hermeneutics without mixing in other elements as they tend to muddle the waters, so to speak.

As an antidote, I decided to publish a separate blog that did just that. Enter Concord Echoes. The blog will deal specifically with Lutheran theology/issues as well as provide resources for further study. You can navigate there by simply following the link just provided or you can find the link in the main navigation bar at the top of this site. I hope you will engage the site, ask questions, and interact with all going on there.

God’s peace be with you

Steven Long

I Will Heal Their Land – Examining the Context of 2Chronicles 7:14

2Chronicles 7:14  if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

How It Is Usually Interpreted

Of all the verses in Scripture, 2Chronicles 7:14 is most certainly overused and taken out of its context. Typically, it is heard in revival meetings and is commonly applied in one of two ways: (1) either a healing of the land in a political sense (i.e., if we elect “godly” leaders the Lord will heal our land of abortion, sodomy, etc.) or (2) a complete physical healing of the land, meaning that God will no longer send drought, famine, diseases, or other ailments that effect our country’s well-being. 

Like all other Scripture, 2Chronicles 7:l4 has a context. But before we examine the context, we must examine how to rightly claim a promise given to us in Scripture. There are certain principles that guide us in rightly claiming a promise of God. Five specific questions should be asked of the promise under consideration:

  1. Is the promise Law or Gospel? That is, does the promise come attached with threatnings if not adhered to or blessings if kept? Often times, these types of promises have to do with God’s blessings of prosperity or poverty, sickness or health, or the general well-being of the person, nation, or land to which the promise is tied. 
  2. Is the promise directed nationally/corporately or individualistic? Many times promises are meant for specific groups of people and sometimes they are meant to be internalized personally. 
  3. Is the promise under a specific covenant? This has major implications. If a promise is meant to be for a specific or certain person under a specific covenant, we cannot rightly claim it as a promise for ourselves. 
  4. Is this promise applicable today? If so, how? There are some promises made under the covenants which can be applied, most times in a spiritual sense. For example, the promise of the Seed of Abraham, which is Jesus, is obviously a promise all can claim. Most times these types of promises will be expounded upon in the epistles or in the Gospels as fulfillments of prophecy. 
  5. If it is an old covenant promise, how does it translate in our modern context? This last question requires that we go beyond the narrative and seek out the theological principles behind the promise. It also requires that we be skilled in understanding how to apply these promises instead of taking it out of context in which the original audience would have understood. 

When we ask these questions, it can help us sort through the interpretive pond.

The Interpretation 

In order to understand how to rightly interpret 2Chronicles 7:14, we must have the full context. Verse 14 is God’s response to an earlier prayer made by Solomon going back to chapter 13:14 and lasting to the end of the chapter. This is too long a portion to paste into this post but I have included the link so that you can read the entire portion for yourself. 

However there are four key things to note about Solomon’s prayer and God’s response to that prayer.

First, it is a prayer of dedication for the temple. The temple in Jerusalem would contain the actual presence of God, as the ark of the covenant would exist there. This is an important piece of information as we will examine later. 

Second, Solomon’s prayer is in response to the covenant made with Israel. The same language both Solomon and Yahweh use is indicative to the language of God’s covenant with Israel upon bringing them into the land. You will find a cross reference sheet below that you can download in order to compare Solomon’s prayer with that of the initial covenant made by God. You will also find a PDF of a harmony of Kings & Chronicles as they are parallel accounts

Third, the major portion of the prayer deals with repentance from apostasy. Most people recognize this prayer is a prayer of repentance. But most ignore or don’t realize it is specifically dealing with the apostasy of God’s people. The prayer is a confession and return to God after complete abandonment. The Hebrew word used shows this in its context as seen below.

It is not simply a prayer of confessing sin so that God would bring healing to their land once again. Solomon’s prayer and God’s response deal with a complete abandonment of the faith. 

Fourth, the promise of 2Chronicles 7:14 is a promise of restoration from exile. We noted in our first point that Solomon’s prayer was a dedicatory prayer for the temple. We stated that it was a key piece of information and now we come to why it is. In Solomon’s portion of the prayer, he states that when God’s people pray towards the city He has chosen and the house (i.e., temple) He has chosen that the Lord forgive their sins and restore them. Note particularly the highlighted portions.

This is too specific to ignore. Solomon’s prayer is parallel to the promises and threats contained within the Mosaic Law, and in particular Leviticus 26:40-42. The language he uses is the same God uses in response to Solomon. This passage cannot be used as a promise of restoration for American soil or any other land, for that matter. But there is an application that can be made.

Application of the Text

The prayer and the promise is tied to apostasy and God’s restoration in response to the apostates’ prayer. This is how the original audience would have understood it. Therefore, we must apply these theological questions (question #5 above) in order to find the application of this verse. 

God is gracious and merciful to His people, the Church. We often become disillusioned about who God is and what He should do for us. This may cause some to walk away from God and apostatize. But because God is faithful to His new covenant in Jesus Christ, those who humble themselves and pray and seek [God’s] face and turn from their wicked ways, God is faithful and just to forgive them of all their sins and restore them again unto the land of fellowship with Him through the atoning work of His Son. To God be the glory! 

Fear Not. 10 Biblical Reasons You Can Stop Doubting Your Salvation

Inevitably it happens. You commit sin and are grieved over it. You repent and try to move on. But that nagging feeling in the back of your mind gets you every time. You start to ask yourself if you were sincere enough or sorry enough for that sin. Doubt creeps in and depression takes hold. Eventually, doubt gives way to fear and fear metamorphs to anger. The cycle you experience is much like that of the Israelites in the book o f Judges. They sin and call on God time and again. And time and again they fall back into apostasy.

Like the Israelites, you feel powerless. The only thing you know to do is to call on the Lord. And my friend, that is enough! It may seem too simple a thing that God can simply forgive you. But in Christ Jesus, He already has. Here are 10 biblical reasons you can stop doubting your salvation or stop doubting that God has forgiven you after you cry out to Him.

1. God desires to be gracious to you (Isaiah 55:1) Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

God’s offer of forgiveness to you is one that requires nothing in return but acceptance. Remember that the context of this passage is God talking to His own rebellious people who continually swayed back and forth into apostasy. When you are in doubt, you may indeed have forgiveness without cost. You may simply call out to the Lord and know that He has heard and forgiven you.

2. God swears by His own Name (Hebrews 6:13) For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself.

The entire book of Hebrews focuses on the superiority of God’s covenant in Jesus as superior to any other covenant or divine thing, even the heavenly angels. God promised the blessing of Abraham’s Seed (Jesus) to the entire world and He ratified this promise by swearing upon His own Name. The International Critical Commentary focuses on the Greek word ὀμνύω (swear) and states,

Taking Abraham as the first or as a typical instance of steadfast faith in God’s promises, the writer now (vv. 13–19) lays stress not upon the human quality, but upon the divine basis for this undaunted reliance. Constancy means an effort. But it is evoked by a divine revelation; what stirs and sustains it is a word of God. From the first the supreme Promise of God has been guaranteed by him to men so securely that there need be no uncertainty or hesitation in committing oneself to this Hope

(Moffatt, J. (1924). A critical and exegetical commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews p. 85. T&T Clark International) [emphasis are mine]

You can rest assured that God’s promise to you in Christ is certain and unchangeable.

3. God cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:17-18) So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath,  so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us

The writer of Hebrews follows up his former example of God swearing an oath by Himself by grounding that promise in the fact that God cannot lie. Your salvation, and mine, are based solely upon this oath. If you’re looking for a reason to ground this hope within yourself, you will fall into despair. While we falter and waiver in our commitment to the Lord, He never waivers with us because He cannot lie about His promise of Christ to you!

4. God’s plan to save you was written in eternity past. (Ephesians 1:3-4) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

According to Ephesians, God chose you in Christ before He created the world. He did not leave to chance all those that will be finally saved. Our election in Christ should be a great source of comfort, knowing that the security of our election is in God’s own hands.

5. God’s promise of salvation is objective. (Luke 24:45-47) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

When we talk about something being objective, we mean something that does not depend on us or something that is outside of us. The Latin phrase Extra Nos is used to describe this objective standard. In Luke 24:45-47 Jesus places Himself as the object for the forgiveness of sins.This means that He is the objective standard, He is the object of faith, and He is the one who decides the basis upon which forgiveness is granted. HIs only requirement is faith in His finished work which causes us to turn to Him in repentance. Believer, the object of your faith and the assurance of forgiveness rests on Christ alone.

6. God’s promise is not dependent upon your failures or successes. (Genesis 28:15) Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

This may seem like an odd Scripture to put forth as proof of God’s promises. But think closely on the context: Jacob is fleeing for his life. He. with the help of his mother, has just swindled the birthright of his brother for himself. And the odd thing about this? God had already promised Rebekah back in Genesis 25:22-23 that Jacob would receive the blessing. In other words, Jacob didn’t have to steal it. It was already his. And in the passage above, God appears to Jacob after he stole, cheated, swindled the promise and yet God reaffirms this covenant to him. Christian, God is faithful to His promises even when you fail. And just like Jacob, His promises are not dependent upon your own failures. Let this be a source of comfort to you in times of failure.

7. Your “feelings” don’t sway God’s feelings. (Psalm 5:1-2, 7) Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray…But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you.

The Psalms are full of every kind of emotion imaginable to the human heart. They speak of joy and sorrow, anxiety and peace, sorrow and gladness. While mortals express these emotions to the Almighty in prayer, He will still hear and fulfill His promises. Consider what Augustine says of this particular Psalm in his commentary:

The Psalmist well shows what this cry is; how from within, from the chamber of the heart, without the body’s utterance, it reaches unto God: for the bodily voice is heard, but the spiritual is understood. Although this too may be God’s hearing, not with carnal ear, but in the omnipresence of His Majesty

Schaff, P., ed. (1888). Saint Augustin: Expositions on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 8, p. 12). Christian Literature Company.

God heard David when he cried for deliverance. And He will certainly not hide from you when you cry.

8. God was faithful even to those who “blew” it. (Judges 16:20, 28) And he [Samson] awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him…Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

Samson is a man who squandered what God had given him. Reading through the story of Samson in Judges 16-18, we see that he broke every single vow of the Nazarite, one that was supposed to make him holy and set apart to God. While God’s chastisement finally caught up to him, Samson cried out to God in the midst of it and God heard him. Samson is recored in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith amongst those who received their due from God by faith. How is it that Samson could be so sinful and God hear him? Because God’s deliverance of His people was not about Samson. It was about God’s promise. God’s promise will never be nullified when you fail. Like Samson, when you cry out to God, He will hear you and deliver you once again.

9. God saved the worst people in the Bible. (Matthew 10:2-4) The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

If ever there was an example of God saving bad people in the Bible, it would be amongst His very own disciples. Peter was brash and quick to speak. James and John wanted Jesus to kill a bunch of Samaritans. Judas betrayed Jesus. but one in particular, Simon the Zealot, comes to mind. He belonged to a radical political group that wanted liberation from the Romans. Many of these Zealots would go even as far as political assassination. Easton’s Bible Dictionary gives us a bit of insight into what a Zealot was.

A sect of Jews which originated with Judas the Gaulonite (Acts 5:37). They refused to pay tribute to the Romans, on the ground that this was a violation of the principle that God was the only king of Israel. They rebelled against the Romans, but were soon scattered, and became a lawless band of mere brigands. They were afterwards called Sicarii, from their use of the sica, i.e., the Roman dagger.

Easton, M. G. (1893). In Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature p. 701. Harper & Brothers.

Though we are not privy to Simon’s role within this group, we are told that he was a part of it. This implies that Jesus didn’t care about money or status when He called the disciples. They were bad men. We are bad people. Yet God still desires to save and change us. Thank God for His mercy!

10. God promises to forgive those who confess their sin. (1John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John was writing to a group of believers to combat the heresy of a form of Gnosticism known as Doceticism. This “philosophy” stated that the flesh was evil and the spirit was good. As a consequence, people began to deny Jesus’ humanity and believe that how they lived in the flesh had no eternal consequences. John emphatically denies this and tells his hearers that those who deny their sins do not have the Spirit of God living in them. In contrast, he states that those who do acknowledge and confess their sins before God are assured of forgiveness. The Lutheran scholar, Lenski, gives us a bit of insight.

“Faithful is he and righteous” refers to God. John has just mentioned “his Son” and the fellowship effected by the blood of his Son and the fact that the remission of our sins is fellowship with God. “Faithful” means true to his promise, and this is placed first; “and righteous” with its forensic sense as it is here added to “faithful” and its connotation of promise states that, when he acquits us according to his promise, God, our Judge, is and remains “righteous.” 

Lenski, R. C. H. (1966). The interpretation of the epistles of St. Peter, St. John and St. Jude, pp. 392-93. Augsburg Publishing House. [emphasis are mine]

Oh! what blessedness to know that God is faithful first to His own promise and that by being faithful, He is justified in forgiving us. It should never be a question of “how can God forgive my awful sin?” but it should only be a matter of, “He has promised to do it and I believe Him.” God’s faithfulness to His own promise is rooted in His word and Name.

Conclusion

Dear friend, we are all prone to be swayed and be tossed along with our emotions. In our times of failure and depression, let us remember these ten Scriptural promises God has given to us. Let us rehearse them in our minds and preach them to our hearts daily. Then we will sing and exclaim with the Psalmist, Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit (Psalm 32:1-2).

Text Flow Diagramming part 5- Propositions

When the New Testament authors penned their letters, they made statements. Some of these were imperatives, commanding their audience to action or abstinence on some level. Some were wishes or desires they hoped their congregations would achieve. And some were questions, rhetorical or otherwise, to spur them to higher thinking.

Propositions are this very thing: they are a statement(s) [defintion b is what I have in mind] made to establish a coherent thought or argument. In Biblical hermeneutics, we need to further refine that definition for the purpose of breaking down the argument and getting back to the author’s original intent for his audience. Thomas Schreiner, professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary offers a concise yet true statement of what constitutes a proposition in chapter 6 of his book, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles.

What is a proposition? A proposition is a statement or an assertion about something…In order to be a proposition a statement must have a subject and a predicate. The subject or predicate can be implied.

Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, p. 99

At its simplest form, then, a proposition must have at least a subject and verb. The one solution that remains is identifying such propositions. The most natural way for this, is to split a sentence whenever you encounter a new verb. Sometimes however, it’s better to split elsewhere, particularly when you have several phrases strung together. Let’s look at a couple examples.

Jesus died on the cross, is a single proposition. There is a subject, Jesus, and a verb, died. It seems simple enough. But things get a little more complex as you attempt to diagram longer sentences and passages. 1Peter 1:3-5 will suffice to demonstrate the complexity of such longer passages.

(1Peter 1:3-5) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

As you can see, the sentence is quite long. The only real verb in the sentence is caused to be born again. There are also several prepositional phrases in succession. So in this case, it may be wise to split the passage after each prepositional phrase. Below, is how I would split the passage. The passage will be further refined as we continue the tutorial.

Some would choose to split the passage after every prepositional phrase, genitive phrase, participle phrase, etc. The best rule is to split the passage that will yield the best exegetical explanation. Not every phrase is exegetically significant, but some can be. I believe in this case, the prepositional phrases will yield some interesting discoveries. At this point, if you need to refresh your memories of the types of phrases and clauses, please do so. The post is here. As we continue, things will become a bit more complicated. Our next tutorial will continue with splitting propositions into its finer parts.