Gospel Guidebook: Getting and Keeping It Right  




Beliefs

Free Grace

I believe that a person is saved and receives eternal life at the moment of believing in Jesus Christ, apart from any pre- or post-salvation works, repentance, obedience, prayers, confessions, water baptism, or anything else (John 6:47). I believe that salvation is a gift from God (John 4:10). I agree with the What We Believe statement of Grace Evangelical Society (GES), with the exception of the following two points:

1. I interpret the verb "believe" as "accepting or receiving something as being true." This would include the "believe that" expressions in John 8:24, John 20:31, and 1 John 5:1. I construe the expressions "believe in," "believe into," and "believe unto" as being essentially equivalent to "believe that" and interpret them as "accepting or receiving someone as being truthful." These expressions would include John 3:15, John 3:16, and Acts 16:31. In the case of Abraham in Romans 4:21, his "being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform" basically equates to his "accepting the promise as being true and receiving God as being truthful." This understanding of the verb "believe" can be derived from passages such as John 3:11-12, 3:32-33, 12:47-48, and 1 John 5:9-10. In particular, it should be noted how John 3:11-12 and 1 John 5:9-10 basically equate "receiving witness" to "believing." As for the noun "faith," I interpret this word as having the same meaning as the gerund of "believe," i.e., "believing." While it would normally be wrong to load a verbal meaning into a noun, I am of the opinion that in salvific contexts, "faith" does mean "believing" in consideration of verses such as Romans 4:3 and Romans 4:5 where we see that the meaning of "faith" is in fact derived from the verb "believe." In particular, in Romans 4:3, the omitted noun in the final clause could very well be interpreted as the gerund "believing." For more information on this topic, please see my article Belief or Trust?

2. In regard to the "Eternal State," I believe that believers will spend eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ in a glorious transformed state (1 Corinthians 15:50-56, Philippians 3:20-21, etc.) and that unbelievers will eventually be reconciled through belief in the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:19, Ephesians 1:10, Colossians 1:20, etc.).


Universal Reconciliation (Biblical Christian Universalism)

I believe in the eventual reconciliation of all of God's creatures as prophesied in Colossians 1:20, "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven." I recognize that there are some "tough texts" such as Matthew 25:46 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9, but I believe that these texts need to be interpreted in accordance with the many plain and positive statements about God's intention and plan to save all of His creatures. As an example regarding tough texts, in Jude 1:7, it says the following: "Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them, in like manner giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." If this verse were the only information we had about Sodom, we might be led to believe that its future was hopeless. Happily, however, we learn that the future for Sodom is far from grim in Ezekiel 16:53-61. Sodom is destined to be restored and reconciled as a daughter of Judah. This passage of Scripture is so clear that even Keil and Delitzsch, who were not Universalists, recognized the happy implications of it in their commentary on Ezekiel 16. In a similar manner, I believe verses like Matthew 25:46 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9, while certainly severe in their pronouncements, will result in a blessed end for those who undergo such judgments. Please see the articles God is the Savior of All Men, Is Universalism Compatible with "Eternal Destruction" in 2 Thessalonians 1:9?, and Revelation 14:9-11 and Christian Universalism for my opinion on various tough texts.

As far as the plain and positive statements about God's intention and plan to save all of His creatures, here are the most important ones in the New Testament.

Plain Proofs of Universal Reconciliation in the New Testament
John 1:29 takes away sin of world John 3:16 God loved the world John 6:51 flesh for life of world
John 12:32 will draw all men Acts 3:21 restoration of all things Acts 17:28 all are his offspring
Rom 5:18 justification to all Rom 11:32 have mercy on all 1 Cor 15:22 all alive in Christ
2 Cor 5:19 reconciles world Eph 1:10 gather all in Christ Eph 1:11 works all to his will
Phil 2:10 every tongue confess Col 1:20 reconcile all things 1 Tim 2:6 ransom for all
1 Tim 4:10 Savior of all men Titus 2:11 salvation to all men 1 John 2:2 propitiation for world
2 Peter 3:9 not willing any perish Rev 5:13 every creature worships Rev 22:2 healing of nations

Sovereignty of God

I believe in determinism, absolutely speaking, and limited free will, relatively speaking. In other words, I believe that we live as possessing a limited amount of free will, but behind the scenes, God is directing all things in accordance with His will (Ephesians 1:11). Furthermore, I say "limited free will" because there are certainly many things in life that we cannot control with our wills, being beyond our power and subject to cause-and-effect relationships that shape every moment of our existence.

Understanding the distinction between what God decrees, absolutely, and what we experience, relatively, helps harmonize many Scripture verses. And this distinction applies to many topics of Scripture besides the sovereignty of God and free will of His creatures. For example, absolutely speaking, I believe that God has predestined and already accomplished the salvation of all people. When the Apostle Paul said, "Christ died for our sins," he was speaking of absolute truth, being a historic fact that expresses the accomplished will of God, regardless of whether it is believed or not. Relatively speaking, each individual person needs to avail himself or herself of this salvation by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life (John 6:47). This truth is expressed in Romans 3:22 where we see that God's salvation is "unto all," absolutely speaking, and "upon all them that believe," relatively speaking. For more information on this topic, please see Getting the Gospel Right in the Gospel Guidebook.

Simplified Beliefs: Gospel of John and the Textus Receptus

I prioritize the Gospel of John in all discussion involving what a person needs to do to be saved. When I wrote the Gospel Guidebook, I had given priority to the Apostle Paul's letters (partially because of my views on eschatology, as noted below). However, I have realized that the Gospel of John needs to be prioritized since it is the only book in the Bible that was written from the point of view of evangelism. For more details, please see my article on John 20:30-31.

I believe that God has preserved the New Testament perfectly in the Textus Receptus tradition. I have written more specifically about my belief in my article Which Textus Receptus?

Partial Preterist Eschatology

I had been a Dispensationalist for many years and wrote the Gospel Guidebook from the perspective of Dispensationalism. However, toward the end of 2020, my studies in Ephesians regarding the "one new man" persuaded me that my view on Dispensationalism may have been incorrect. This led to months of study and reevaluation of several key texts on the imminent return of Jesus Christ, such as Matthew 16:28, 24:31, and Revelation 1:1-3. Without going into detail here, my studies led me to a change in eschatology. I now believe in what is called Partial Preterism (also known as Orthodox Preterism). This is an eschatological system that views most, but not all, of the prophecies in the New Testament, including the Book of Revelation (up to perhaps Chapter 20), as having been fulfilled in the 1st century AD. I do not plan on discussing this topic on my website, but for people who are interested, I recommend reading the first few chapters in James Stuart Russell's book The Parousia. In the future, I may revise the explanations in the Gospel Guidebook that were influenced by my former belief in Dispensationalism. However, neither Dispensationalism nor Partial Preterism has influenced my belief in Free Grace or Universal Reconciliation in any substantial way. If anything, my belief in Free Grace and Universal Reconciliation has become strengthened as a result of becoming a Partial Preterist.