Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 11/3/02
"...and the righteousness of God is through the faith OF Jesus Christ to all, and upon all those believing, for there is no difference, for all did sin, and are come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23, Young's Literal Translation).
We have had intense e-mail correspondence recently, with two people who are struggling to believe in God's reconciliation of all. I have spent so much time at the computer that Lenny was afraid my body would freeze up in the shape of the chair. Among the questions were, "How do you know when the Spirit is manifesting?" Like everything else, this is received by the faith of Christ working in us, but the tangible evidence for me is the testimony pouring out through me, bearing witness to the hope that is in me. A reader whom I'll call "Tony," not his real name, gave me permission to share with you his concerns. I suspect quite a number of people struggle to understand the vast and enigmatic topic of faith. It's a substance like air, which you can't quite explain, but cannot live without.
Tony wrote, "I took a long break from reading your articles and others pertaining to Ultimate Reconciliation. I felt led to lay it down for awhile. But I'm back! I just read your article on "Faith, The Bridge Over Troubled Waters." (Link at end). I agree whole heartedly with what you wrote. Actually, I agree with your spirit and with almost everything you write about. I haven't written to be contentious at all, but to find out truth. The question that I haven't been able to reconcile (no pun intended) is this deal about faith. I agree with everything you wrote about in your article on faith. However, it seems that this is just one aspect of faith that you have addressed. You never (from what I have read so far) address this need of faith for salvation. Everything I see in the word pertaining to salvation hinges on faith. I so desperately want to believe the way you do, and am very open. But I must see this clearly in the word and not based on my own reasoning. I want to give you a few scriptures, not to be contentious, but to get some understanding.
"John 3: 16 says, "whosoever BELIEVETH on Him." Colossians 1:20 talks about Christ reconciling all things to Himself, but then verse 23 says, "if you continue in the faith." Even the verse you used to open your article on "The Good News about Judgment" (Link at end). John 5:24, uses the word, "believe." Furthermore in that very article, you mention John 12:47, but fail to mention verse 48 (more about this later). Please hear my heart. This is not an "I gotcha," but I truly desire to know if this doctrine is the truth, or a "cut and splice." Is this doctrine of Ultimate Reconciliation the truth, taking the whole counsel of God's word into consideration?
"It's this faith thing that is the hurdle for me. I just gave you a couple of verses, but it is all through the New Testament. Also, as an end note, the same word used for everlasting and eternal ("aonian," I believe) is used for both life and death and punishment. Confusing stuff, but I am still open. PLEASE CONVINCE ME. My heart is wide open. I have been arrested by HIS LOVE. I agree with everything else that you write, even the way the gospel should be lived and presented. Thank you for your kind consideration of this e-mail.
"In His Love, Tony." End Quote.
Faith really is like the air we breath. Without it we will die, but many Christians are stuck for an adequate definition of it, and when pressed, are confused about where faith originates, in us or in God. Faith IS the mother's milk of the Christian life, and indeed, the Hebrew writer proclaims "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Heb. 11:6, RSV). What we're going to be discussing today is "Whose faith is it? How do we get it? Is my faith enough?" The Spirit gave me some words for Tony which I'd like to share here, along with some additional references He gave me just today.
Hi Tony! It's great to hear from you again. God does give us a "time out" sometimes, so we won't burn out, but I'm glad you're back. Reconciliation is like the grain of mustard seed, which starts out small, but ends up being the shelter in the storm for your whole life: your relationships, work efforts, and spiritual growth. Lenny wanted me to say first, that reconciliation comes to us by the Holy Spirit's revelation only. Certainly, He uses people to share with us, but it is His job, not ours to convince you of the truth that God will ultimately save everyone.
I found the timing of your e-mail fascinating, because you mention "belief" in reference to John 3:16. As it happens, this is the topic of the journal entitled, "Eternal Life, now or later?" (Link at end). This writing flowed from a discussion with another reader, who wrote about his concerns on this very verse.
Let me address some of your questions about faith. Of course, we must have faith to be pleasing to God. It is the bedrock of the New Covenant, but the crucial question to consider is, whose faith is it? The church tells us that it is OUR faith, but Lenny wanted me to share two verses with you. 1) "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20, KJV). Notice, that it says "I live by the faith OF the Son of God," rather than "faith IN the Son of God." Lenny reminds us that if we are dead in Christ, we can have no faith of our own because dead men do not have faith! My faith would not make it past the front gate of heaven, but I can depend upon Christ's faith! Since I began to understand what Paul meant when he says that my old man is crucified with Christ, who lives in me, there's no problem for me with faith anymore. I don't have to dig it up, drum it up, or sweat it out. To lead an overcoming life, I only have to tap into the mother lode of Christ's faith, within me.
2) When Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch preaching the gospel to Jews and Gentiles, Paul repeated the "divine imperative," his mission statement, in which God said to him, "'I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.'" And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed" (Acts 13:46-48, RSV). The action here originates with God, for "as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." Jesus affirmed that when He said, "and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL men to myself" (John 12:32, RSV). The power always flows to us from God, who finished the work He began in us before the world began (Eph. 2:10; Heb. 4:3).
Here's the difference between the way I saw it when I was following a list of instructions, and the way I see it now that I have felt the inescapable love of God in my life. I began the journey, thinking it all started with me, with my decision, my will, my choices. Because God has shined the light of His love on the scriptures and in my heart, I now see clearly that God, not man is the initiator of every action because He loves us passionately, unconditionally, eternally! The pivotal verse for me in Paul's delineation of the gospel is, "For GOD has consigned all men to disobedience, that HE may have mercy upon all" (Rom. 11:32, RSV). He who "so loved the world" is the author and finisher of the action in this verse! What He started, He is well able to finish!
In my little "sermons" this year, I have found that the Spirit brings me back to Abraham over and over, for it was God's promise, sealed by His oath (Heb. 6:13), that in Abraham's seed (Christ. See Gal. 3:16), ALL nations would be blessed (Gal. 3:8). Considering that Abraham had nothing whatsoever to do with the covenant God promised him, it being a unilateral (one sided) agreement, one must conclude that the faith he displayed, which Paul says was counted to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:9), came from God Himself! Abraham was an Idol worshipper, probably worshipped the moon goddess, which was the prevailing cult in his home land, Ur of the Chaldees. The only way he could have had faith was from being in the very presence of God. Paul tells us that faith is a gift of God. Why? So that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). To our natural minds, Abraham's faith seems weak, but knowing that He was going to bring forth the salvation of ALL through Abraham's seed, God counted it to him for righteousness (Rom. 4:5). After being here in the bible belt for the past four years and six months, I can tell you that some people do boast about making a decision for Christ.
I am most certainly NOT advocating the "slice and dice" method of choosing scripture. What I am saying is that no matter what it is that anyone thinks we need to do or be or say in order to attain eternal life, salvation, etc., everything originates from God. This is the whole counsel of God to us (Acts 20:7). If this is not true, we'd be back to law, which the Hebrew writer affirmed, made no one perfect (Heb. 7:19).
Re: John 12:48, Jesus said that "He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day." Most churches tell us that if we do not believe this "word," we'll burn in hell. This is NOT what the verse says. Christ IS the Word of God (which the legalists have diluted into words on a page, the letter of the law). By what "word" then, will the Son of man judge the world? How about, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." Is it possible that on Judgment Day (whatever or whenever it is), Christ will stand shame faced before the Father and say with down cast eyes, "I did my best. I really did. I shed my blood, but it wasn't enough. Your will that no one should perish was not enough to get these rotten pukes saved." This is a blasphemous mockery of the cross of Christ and the power of Almighty God!
In this age, the elect, the ecclesia (called out) are the only ones accepting Christ. We are the remnant, but the remnant is always chosen for the benefit of everyone else. This is why Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven will be the servant of all (Mk. 9:35). To me, it is where you put the emphasis. If it is on faith, then fine, let it be on faith, but remember the verse said that only those who were ORDAINED by God believed (Acts 13:48). Only those whom the Lord calls come to Him. "And Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him" (Acts 2:38,39, RSV). Church leaders often want to take the glory, but scripture says that the Lord is the one adding to the church, the ecclesia, the saved, the elect: "And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47, RSV).
Loving you with rejoicing, Jan and Lenny
Subsequent to this conversation, another friend in Oregon e-mailed a comment to us which fit into this discussion perfectly, showing that the Spirit moves on many hearts to get truth across. He wrote, "Just before I read your journal, I was checking into Mark 11:22, where most versions have Jesus answering Peter and perhaps other disciples, saying: "Have faith in God." Now, I am not a Greek scholar, but I can read. From an elementary Greek text I see that, "God" is in the genitive (possessive) case and thus the text should be translated, "faith OF God." Of a dozen or so translations I looked at, only Young had the guts to translate it that way. Does this jibe with your understanding? It seems that doctrines of men often win out over scholarship (and truth)." End Quote.
Inspired by his research, I began to do some of my own, for this was the point I had made to Tony. The Emphatic Diaglott, a word by word translation from the Greek, reads, "And answering the Jesus says to them, "Have you faith of God" (Mark 11:22). I found another exciting reference to the faith OF God in Romans 3:23-26. Here's the RSV: "since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus." What a difference a preposition makes! Like most translations available to us, the RSV says, "faith IN Jesus." The Diaglott renders Vs. 26: "and for an exhibition of his righteousness at the present time, in order that he may be righteous while justifying him who is of the faith OF Jesus." Young translates it, "for the shewing forth of His righteousness in the present time, for His being righteous, and declaring him righteous who is of the faith OF Jesus" (Rom. 3:26, YLT). If it is, "faith IN Jesus," then I bear the responsibility. If it is the "faith OF Jesus," then the burden is upon Christ, who said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:30).
Like most Americans, I grew up reading the King James Version of the bible. Only in the past five years have I learned that when the translators assembled to do the work for King James (thus the name of the translation), they were told, in effect, "Don't rock the boat. Stay as close to 'party line' as you can." The stakes were high; failing to comply was death by being burned at the stake, quite an incentive for getting it the way the King ordered. According to Benjamin Wilson, the man who translated The Diaglott, there are some 20,000 translation errors in the King James Version of the bible! At first, I was horrified by this, but now I see that God planned it that way! Were there ever a perfect translation of the bible, it would become like the Tower of Babel, whereby men would attempt to get to heaven by their own efforts. As it is, many Christians have elevated the written word into the godhead and worship it today. We cannot depend on the letter, which kills, but we must rely on the Spirit of God, who leads us into all truth and gives us life (II Cor. 3:6). Father, help us to see You as You are. Shine the light of Your Spirit on our hearts so that we may feast on You, the living Word of Life. Bread of Heaven, feed us till we want no more. Amen, Jan Antonsson.
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Faith, the Bridge over Troubled Waters"
"The Good News about Judgment"
"Eternal Life, now or later?"
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 11/1/02
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/15/08.