His Law is Love
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and
with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none
other commandment greater than these.
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
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We are Greg and Kari Cheney and we live in Alaska with our 12 children. My (Greg) passion is learning and teaching the Word of God (doctrinal statement below). I believe that the greatest sources of evil in the world are selfishness (sin), secular humanism, Satan, and the State. I enjoy many outdoor activities, but mostly farming and fishing. I (Kari) am a keeper at home. I homeschool
the children and enjoy cooking, gardening, reading, and providing book reviews at @aurorabookreview on Instagram.
Our oldest four children have contributed articles for this blog as well. William (19), Wesley (18), Elaina (15), and Grayden (14).
Our mission through this website is to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Law is Love, by exploring and teaching God's Word, by encouraging the saints to continue in the faith, by calling on sinners to submit to the rule of Christ, and by engaging in spiritual warfare for the sake of the burdened and broken-hearted, thus fulfilling the law of Christ through prayer, biblical counsel, and practical advice for navigating through the battlefield of life.
I have studied the scriptures with the intention of knowing God and his truths, and I will continue to do so, knowing that even though God’s revelation of himself through his Word is complete, no person, church, or denomination should claim to have reached the end
of the journey when it comes to learning about and understanding God. While we must take care not to be “blown around by every wind of doctrine”, we must also constantly test the teachings we have heard for biblical accuracy. God’s truths are absolute, and knowable, but traditional and denominational beliefs should not be considered infallible. Christian people throughout Church history have grappled with various theological concepts, and as a result some have moved beyond the erroneous doctrines of certain religious establishments to a fuller and deeper understanding of who God is and what kind of God he is. Sometimes the interpretations of the Lord’s followers change as they step more fully into the light of God’s Word. Those who submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and walk in obedience to him are brothers and sisters in the Lord, even if they differ in some of their doctrinal interpretations.
The following describes my doctrinal affirmations:
God The Father (Yahweh)
God, Father, and LORD are his titles - YHWH is his name. God is a Spirit (John 4:24), is perfectly holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), just (Deuteronomy 32:4), loving (1 John 4:16), and good (Psalm 34:8), and is unchangeable in his nature and character (James 1:17). He has revealed himself in nature, as well as in the scriptures, so that we may know him (Romans 1:19-20; Deuteronomy 6:4, 1 Corinthians 8:6).
The Lord Jesus Christ (Yeshua)
Lord and Christ are his titles - Yeshua (Hebrew), Jesus (Greek) is his name. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Though a distinct Person from God (Ephesians 1:2,3,17; 2 Corinthians 1:3; John 3:16, etc.), he too possesses the attributes of deity and Godhood is rightly ascribed to him. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (John 1:1-3; John 1:14; Colossians 2:9). He has existed eternally and he entered our humanity by being born to the Virgin Mary (Isaiah 9:6). He lived a sinless life (1 Peter 1:21-22). He died as a sin-offering on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21), was buried, and was resurrected three days later (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Matthew 28). He appeared to his disciples and ascended to heaven. He is the Savior of mankind (1 Timothy 4:10). He will return to the earth to rule and reign (Acts 1:1-11). All who submit to him as Lord are given the gift of eternal life (Romans 10:9-10).
I believe in the inspiration of the First Testament and New Testament Scriptures as originally given by God. The Bible is God’s revelation to us, and it is my authority for belief and practice. The King James Version of the Bible is the only English version I read for personal study and public ministry.
God created mankind in a state of innocence. Being tempted by Satan, man yielded and willfully disobeyed God, becoming a sinner and incurring God’s judgment. By means of Adam’s disobedience, sin and death entered the world. The Bible teaches that Adam’s actions have impacted his descendants - “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19a). Some men claim that all humans are born with a sinful nature that we inherited from Adam, and this explains how his disobedience resulted in many being made sinners. However, to be consistent, if the first part of the passage means that the sin of Adam resulted in all becoming sinners involuntarily, then the second part of the passage would mean that the obedience of Christ results in all becoming righteous involuntarily, for it states: “so by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19b) This view is not supported by the scriptures.
I believe the biblical explanation is that Adam’s disobedience became the occasion for the subsequent constitutional depravity of his descendants (the result of being barred from the health-and life-giving Tree of Life) and corresponding increase in susceptibility to temptation, so that it can be truly said, by his “disobedience many were made sinners.” On the other hand, Christ’s obedience (his unselfish, loving sacrifice) became the occasion and influence of the repentance and obedience of his followers, so that it can be truly said, by his “obedience many were made righteous” (also see Hebrews 9:14). Though in the flesh we are vulnerable to temptation, and we all at one point have chosen self-gratification over obedience to God, the flesh itself is not sinful, or Christ himself would have been born with a sinful nature, for he was born of the same flesh we have. Christ, though tempted in all points as we are in the flesh, did not sin, proving to us that sin is a moral transgression and that sin is in the will, not the physical substance of man. I believe that the commission and practice of sin is the cause of moral depravity (for morality cannot be inherited), resulting in people becoming
“by nature the children of wrath.” The Bible teaches that each person is condemned for his own sin, and not the sin of Adam - “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Hebrews 5:12).
Death has passed from Adam to his descendants due to Adam’s sin. The judgment of eternal death (the second death) has passed upon all men for their own sins. Sinners make themselves objects of God’s wrath; God does not create us as objects of his wrath. When a person (excluding those who are mentally incapable, and babies and children that die before becoming morally accountable) by his own free will, chooses to disobey the moral law of God, he becomes, or is made, sinful due to his own volition. When a person, through the influence of the Spirit of God, chooses to repent and follow Christ in obedience, he becomes, or is made, righteous due
to his own volition.
The Lord Jesus Christ has made provision for the salvation of mankind by his voluntary death on the cross for our sins. A person receives forgiveness for his sins and acceptance with God when he admits to God that he is a sinner, and when in godly sorrow he turns from his sinful and self-ruled life to follow Jesus Christ as Lord. Christ’s death makes salvation possible for all, but his death makes salvation automatic for no one. Eternal life is possible to each of us because of Christ’s death, but eternal life only becomes
the inheritance of those who submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Romans 14:9). A man must repent and be converted (Acts 3:19). To be converted is to be born again. The new birth is not an impartation of new abilities or enabling capacities, as if we are unable to respond to God. The new birth is a change of heart toward Christ, influenced by God, effected by the sinner. We are saved by grace (God’s influence on the heart of man) through faith (submission to Christ). This is why the Word of God commands: “Make you a
new heart and a new spirit” (Ezekiel 18:31), and why the salvation call is to deny self and to follow Christ. This means “being dead
in trespasses and sins” is not an inability to follow Christ, it is figurative speech referring to being dead to God. To be born again is to yield one’s heart to Christ, to choose obedience to him over self-rule and self-gratification. Therefore, regeneration is not a change in the abilities of a person, but the beginning of a person rightly using the abilities God created him with.
All followers of Christ have the promise of eternal life, on the condition they persevere in holiness to the end of life (Hebrews 3:14, Hebrews 12:9-15), but they can fall away from the Lord, either through passive indifference or deliberate apostasy, and perish. Those who have followed the Lord may later fall (Ezek. 18:24; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19). Those grafted into the good olive tree may later be broken off through willful unbelief (Rom. 11:16-22). Branches that “abide not” are cast forth and burned (John 15:6). Those who have known Christ can again become entangled in the world (2 Peter 2:20). Those who have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit and have produced the fruit of the Spirit may fall from grace back into former pollutions (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:29). We are instructed to take care that we do not lose what we have (2 John 8), and to hold fast so that no one seizes our crown (Rev. 3:11). There is reason to believe that the Christian will persevere unto the end because of God’s influence in his life, including the loving chastening of God toward his children if they err. I believe that a Christian that gives in to temptation and sins, or in other words, becomes a backslider through disobedience, will receive God’s loving correction and repentance will result in forgiveness. Should the believer fail to repent, I believe God will increase his chastening on his erring child for the purpose of saving his soul from eternal death (Hebrews 12:9). God is longsuffering and eager to forgive, and he promises not to forsake us, therefore I do not believe that backsliding results in the immediate forfeiture of our salvation as some teach, but I do believe that the backslider can resist the Spirit and harden his heart toward God’s correction and ultimately forsake the Lord, or to put it another way, he can become an apostate. Backsliding can be remedied, by repentance, but it can lead to committed apostasy, from which there is no road to recovery (Hebrews 6:4-6). God is
ever merciful, but the person referred to here is the man that has decidedly set his heart against Christ and has been turned over to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28-32). This person cares nothing for following Christ and has been severed from Christ by God (John 15:6, Romans 11:22). I believe in the eternal security of the believer, but not the unbeliever, whether he was once a believer or not.
A person that follows Christ will never perish, but the person who does not abide in Christ will forfeit his inheritance. Since man continues to have free choice, it is possible for him to fall into the practice of sin and to make shipwreck of his faith and be lost.
I also believe there are many people who profess to be Christians that have never been converted to begin with.
Prophecy, Foreknowledge, and Future Events
All people have either a settled view or an open view of the future in theory, but almost all professing Christians live as if the future
is at least partly open. When it comes to God’s purposes, plans, and prophecies, there are those who teach that God has predetermined everything that happens. There are others who teach that God does not predetermine everything that happens, because that would make him responsible for the sins people commit and all the suffering in the world. Instead, they teach that in eternity past God looked down the corridor of time and foresaw all the sins people would commit, all the suffering in the world, as well as who would reject him and who would submit to him. Considering these two views further, either God causes all things that happen, so that they cannot occur otherwise, or God foreknew what would happen in every instance, therefore each event of every moment must occur as he foresaw it in eternity past. As in the first view, things cannot occur otherwise.
Think of the horrendous acts that people have committed against each other in history. Ask some professing Christians and they will say that God is responsible for these actions. But this would mean that God is responsible for sin. If man is not responsible for his own actions, then he cannot justly be held accountable for them.
If God foreknew all that would happen in the world, it means that in the mind of God, all that has happened was certain to happen,
or it could not truly be said that God foreknew it would happen. But many passages in the Bible prove to us that God does not see everything in our lives as foregone conclusions. God speaks in terms of “if you do this then X will happen, but if you do not then Y will happen.” He states that some things “may” or “may not” occur. This does not sound like a God who sees the future as settled because of his own decrees or an inflexible foreknowledge, and in fact, the forthrightness of the scriptures become questionable if either of those views are correct. For example, when God told Hezekiah that he was about to die, God was telling him the truth.
Since God was telling Hezekiah the truth, God truly added 15 years to his life as the Bible says. According to the beliefs of some people, God knew all along that Hezekiah would live another 15 years, but this would mean that God was telling Hezekiah a falsehood by telling him he was about to die, and the Bible falsely states that God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. The Bible
clearly tells us that God extended the life of Hezekiah 15 years. This means a change in circumstances occurred, and that neither Hezekiah’s imminent death, nor the extension of his life were fixed events in the mind of God. This is a perfect example of God changing his mind and changing the circumstances in the life of one of his creatures. God never changes in character, but the Bible shows that he has often changed his mind about a course of action due to human responses. Though he specifically states that there
are things he will not change his mind about, this does not mean he never changes his mind, and the biblical references to this are numerous.
The only way the biblical passage referring to Hezekiah can be genuine in all aspects is if God moves along with his creation in time (he is from everlasting to everlasting in duration; not timeless [outside of time], thus he experiences reality as we do), he was sincere in his proclamation that Hezekiah was about to die (that was reality as God knew it at the time, making him sincere in his claim), but God is all powerful and can change the circumstances for any of his creatures at his choosing (showing us he is omnipotent, that the future is not a foregone conclusion in God's knowledge or by a fixed determination, and that he can make plans and change his plans when it is morally safe for him to do so).
According to the Bible, the future is settled in some regards, and it is open and contingent in other regards. God can know all there is to know. He can know all that is in existence, but there are parts of the future that do not exist to be known. Certainly, there are some aspects of the future that are settled, and therefore known by God, because he has determined that some things will come to pass (The Lord Jesus will come again, the Lord’s enemies will be destroyed, etc.), but this has to do with God’s power and ability to accomplish his purposes, not a foreknowledge of something non-existent. For example, who will or will not be saved is not predetermined, it is not certain, therefore it does not exist to be known. This connects with the doctrine of corporate election. The doctrine of corporate election teaches that God’s election concerns a body – the Church – not that he elected certain individuals to be in the body, or that God simply foreknew all of the individuals that would comprise the body. Christ is God’s elect individual. We partake in God’s election by being followers of Christ. We enter the body through faith, and we can be severed from the body through unbelief. The eternal destiny of individuals is not a settled matter; thus, our prayers and actions can really make a difference in the lives of others.
The issue is not about the knowledge of God, for all Christians believe God can know everything. The issue is about the nature of reality and what is involved in “everything.” Since the future does not exist, then the future free will choices of human beings do not exist and cannot be objects of knowledge until these choices are made. This is why God told Abraham: “…now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12), and why God brought the animals to Adam “to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2:19), and why the Bible says numerous times that God tests people to see what course of action they would take (Exodus 15:25-26, Exodus 16:4, Deuteronomy 8:2, Deuteronomy 13:3, Psalm 14:2, Jeremiah 17:10). We also see in the Bible that even though God can be anywhere he chooses, he can choose not to be in certain places, and though he can know all that is in existence, he can choose not to know the specifics of certain events.
“And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now,
and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” God can plan and ensure that certain things will happen, and he can in his infinite intelligence even make accurate predictions based on current human conduct (we do the same even with our finite intelligence), and this explains prophecy, foreknowledge, and future events.
The Bible shows us that the future choices of individuals are not settled and that we can make a difference in the world around us.
I believe that a church is a group of Christians that have united for the purpose of fellowship and edification, with overseers (pastors, bishops, elders) shepherding the flock. I believe that churches should be patterned after the New Testament scriptures. I believe in the autonomy of the church, free of any ecclesiastical or state control. I believe the welfare of the family depends upon its submission to and involvement with a church. The church is an important element in our lives, for God has ordained that we exercise our spiritual gifts in cooperation with other believers. Under pastoral oversight, the local church should strive to be doctrinally sound, and should be characterized by orderly participation without suppressing personal liberty and open dialogue.
The Gifts of the Spirit
I believe that God bestows spiritual gifts to believers. God uses evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip believers so they can do
the work of the ministry by using their spiritual gifts (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10). I believe that the sign gifts of the
Holy Spirit, such as speaking in tongues and the gift of healing were temporary and ceased once God’s revelation was complete
(1 Corinthians 13:8).
Ordinances of the Church
I believe that Baptism and the observance of the Lord's Supper are essential ordinances in the ministry of the church, and I am open
to the practice of foot washing as an ordinance of the church. These ordinances are symbolic expressions of and reminders of the gospel, and they serve to strengthen our faith.
Women in Ministry
I believe that men and women are equally valuable before God and that he has ordained distinct and separate functions for men and women in the home and the church. The husband is to be the overseer of the home and men are to be the overseers (pastors, bishops, and elders) of the church, as well as deacons of the church. Accordingly, only men are eligible for ordination. Women are forbidden from preaching to and teaching men in the assembly (1 Tim. 2:12).
Marriage and Family
God created marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, I believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that no sexual relations of any kind are acceptable outside of this union. I believe that the union of one man and one woman, more than any relationship on earth, mirrors the relationship that we are to have with our Lord. I believe that the scriptures clearly teach that homosexuality is a perversion of God’s creation and design.
I believe that God disapproves of and forbids any attempt to alter one’s gender by surgery or appearance.
The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and he is to be her provider and protector. God commands him to keep himself pure in body, to set no wicked thing before his eyes, and to bring his thoughts into subjection to Christ.
The wife is to submit herself to the scriptural headship of her husband as the church submits to the headship of Christ. God commands her to be a keeper at home, modest in appearance, and meek in spirit.
Children are “an heritage from the Lord.” Children are to honor their parents.
Fathers and mothers are responsible for teaching their children Christian values and leading them through example and appropriate discipline.
In instances where a breakdown in the family has occurred, perhaps due to the neglect or departure of the husband/father or wife/mother, rendering the ideal home situation impossible, the single parent should be encouraged, loved, and respected as he/she attempts to do the best he/she can in these challenging circumstances.
Divorce and Remarriage
I believe that God hates divorce and intends marriage to last until the husband or wife dies (1 Corinthians 7:49). If divorce occurs and the marriage is ended, remarriage is not necessarily allowed by the Word of God. Remarriage after divorce is adultery, except on the grounds of fornication (Matthew 19:19) or abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:12-15), but even then, repentance and reconciliation, if possible, is the preferred outcome. In the case where a person realizes he or she has committed adultery by divorcing and remarrying, repentance results in forgiveness, and the individual should continue in the current marriage and live for Christ.
There are no scriptures supporting birth control, however there are no verses that say it is a sin to use natural (or non-abortive) methods to space one’s children or because of health and safety concerns. Motivation and methods matter. Birth control chemicals and devices are immoral because 1) they prevent birth, not conception, which means human life is being destroyed in the womb, and because 2) God’s sovereignty over the womb is being disregarded. Many in the Church have adopted the world’s values in many areas. Birth control chemicals and devices became more readily accepted so women could abandon their scriptural duty of being keepers at home (1 Timothy 5:14).
I believe that human life begins at conception. Once the new human life attaches to the uterus, in about a week after conception, its physical form begins to develop. But even before this physical development begins, from the moment fertilization takes place, the child’s genetic makeup - gender, eye and skin color, etc. - is already complete. Abortion is the purposeful ending of a life and it is murder (Exodus 20:13).
Sometimes in our suffering creation, after fertilization, a child does not travel the normal course to the uterus. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy (for example - when the child attaches to the fallopian tube - also known as a tubal pregnancy, which is potentially fatal to the child and the mother). Several courses of action are available, some of which appear to be morally acceptable while others are not. A “wait and see” approach can be taken in which the situation is monitored and prayers are offered to God. Once it is apparent that the ectopic pregnancy will not be corrected, a decision has to be made. In some instances the life of the mother is in jeopardy. A procedure can be conducted in which both sides of the fallopian tube around the child are cut and the child is removed in order to save the life of the mother. While the death of the child is foreseen, the purpose is not to end a life, but to save the life of the mother. This is a difficult situation to be in. Some believe the correct decision is to allow the matter to take its course and to leave the outcome in God’s hands; if the mother perishes, she perishes. I will not question the faith of these individuals. Others may decide that saving the life of the mother is the morally upright choice under the principle of double effect.
Moral actions that produce two effects can be evaluated under the understanding of the principle of double effect. It is an ethical basis that Christian philosophers have used to evaluate the permissibility of certain actions that may also cause an effect one would otherwise want to avoid.
1. The action, apart from the foreseen bad effect, must be either morally good or indifferent.
2. The bad effect must not be directly willed.
3. The intention must be the achieving of only the good effect, with the bad effect being only an
unintended side effect. All reasonable measures to avoid or mitigate the bad effect must be taken.
4. There must be a proportionate reason for permitting the bad effect.
Considering the removal of the fallopian tube under this principle:
1. Removing a part of the body that is about to rupture and cause the death of the mother is a morally good action.
2. The death of the child, though foreseen, is not the direct intention of the procedure. The removal of the fallopian tube is for the purpose of saving the life of the mother, not to cause the death of the child.
3. The death of the child is not willed and would be avoided if at all possible - if, for example, re-implantation in the womb were reasonably possible.
4. The life of the mother is not less valuable than the life of the child.
Though this procedure will result in the death of the child, it is not the intention. I do not consider this procedure to fall under the evil known as abortion, since abortion is the intentional and purposeful destruction of life as an end in itself.
Merciful Termination of Life
The Bible teaches that human beings are created in the image of God. This gives all humans dignity and value. Human life should not be terminated merely because life is difficult or inconvenient (Exodus 20:13). Christians must also reject the idea that everything must be done to save life at all costs, and sometimes the decision must be made to accept the inevitable outcome (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
This topic requires elaboration. Is there such a thing as a merciful termination of life? In our suffering creation, this concept is discussed using terms such as euthanasia, physician-assisted suicide, non-resuscitation orders, and even mercy killing, in response to untreatable severe pain and suffering.
There are evil people in the world that have a disregard for life. They clamor for abortion on demand and would have no problem being rid of the weak since they consider the needy to be a burden on society. Many professing Christians rightly oppose these immoralities by standing up for life and claiming that only God should be in control of whether someone lives or dies, but they wrongly include all views and situations that relate to these topics under the same evil umbrella, and many are inconsistent in their morals. They then wonder why people do not take them seriously.
As someone that values human life, I also believe that life is not its own end. Christians do not argue that life should be preserved at all costs. Many Christians throughout Church history have given up their lives for some other end, such as martyrdom or saving the life of someone else. This was done for the precise reason that life is precious; yet precious life was forfeited to secure this end. In the past and present, people have concluded that a person may willingly give up his own life as an act of love. Making careful and faithful choices about dying is not the same as “playing God”, instead, it provides examples of people using their freedom and responsibility given to them by God.
Consider this scenario: A despotic Government official condemns one of my loved ones to death for being a Christian, and instead of making it a quick and painless death, the decision is made to burn my loved one at the stake. There is nothing I can do to stop this cruel tragedy, and my loved one begins to suffer unspeakable pain and horrific suffering on the way to inevitable death. From a distance, I have the opportunity to fire a single lethal round from a firearm that would end my soon deceased loved one’s suffering. Would I do it? I believe that God is the Lord of life and death, but with all the pain that a man could possibly feel, yes, I would, out of love and compassion for my family member. This situation pulls at our heart strings, and perhaps many others would agree with this position. Many of us would end a life in this scenario to prevent suffering, and even end our own life to protect others in certain circumstances, thus contradicting the notion that we think only God should decide the timing of a person’s death.
I am not referring to situations of inconvenience or troubling times, but of situations of inevitable and inescapable suffering and death. To be clear, I am against the State being involved in matters of life and death, therefore I am not speaking of passing laws so Government officials can end the lives of the unborn, the elderly, or the infirm. I am speaking of the freedom and responsibility of the individual to make his or her own decision, or a compassionate loved one to relieve a loved one of fatal suffering. Not everyone that believes there are situations where ending suffering is the right thing to do are doing it for selfish reasons. Some look at it from the perspective of loving compassion, while remembering that the God of mercy is with us in both life and death.
Death and the Intermediate State
Many Christians believe the Bible teaches that once a person dies, the spirit is a conscious part of him that is alive in heaven or hell. Other Christians, myself included, believe the Bible teaches conditional immortality, that when a person dies, he is dead (Daniel 12:2). The Bible describes this as “sleeping” (Matthew 27:52-53; John 11:11; Acts 7:60; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 2 Peter 3:4). The sleep of death is an unconscious existence in which people have no awareness of time as creation awaits the return of Christ and the resurrection. Christians that hold to conditional immortality believe the scriptures when it says that God alone possesses immortality (1 Timothy 6:16), but God will gift his people with immortality (eternal life) at the resurrection. This gift is already theirs as followers of Christ, but they must abide in Christ, and they will be clothed with immortality once Christ returns. In contrast, the lost will be raised, judged, and then cast into the lake of fire where they will suffer and perish. To perish does not mean to live eternally in an alternate form of existence – it means to die. The lost will die the irreversible and everlasting second death. Both soul and body will be destroyed in the lake of fire, just as the Lord Jesus warned (Matthew 10:28). This view opposes the idea that the wicked will burn forever in eternal conscious torment since one has to go beyond reason to explain how a person can perpetually perish. While the punishment of the ungodly is described as eternal, I believe this refers to an irreversible punishment that is eternal in consequence.
In Mark 9:43-44 we read: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (see also verses 45-48). Some may not know that the Lord’s words are a reference to what Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 66:24. Isaiah wrote: “And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Isaiah portrayed the righteous going out of the city of Jerusalem, after God’s judgment of the wicked, and viewing their dead corpses in the dump where maggots (“the worm”) and a fire are consuming them. It is important to realize that Isaiah is writing about dead corpses, not living beings. The picture involves shame, or contempt, not pain.
Throughout the Bible, the figure of “unquenchable” fire refers to fire which completely burns up, or consumes, whatever is put into it (see Ezekiel 20:47-48 and Amos 5:5-6). No one would claim that the fire Ezekiel referred to is still burning, or that the fire in Amos would still be burning, though we would say the fire could not be resisted and was unquenchable in that it would continue until it had accomplished its purpose.
This language came to be associated with the Valley of Hinnom, also known as Gehenna, which is the word translated “hell” in the New Testament. Gehenna is a place outside of Jerusalem. It was once the site of child sacrifice (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6) and later the city “dump” for garbage and dead carcasses (Jeremiah. 7:31-33; 19:2-13). It was a horrible place, filled with maggots, and was a reminder of sickening sights and smells.
When the Lord Jesus used this language from Isaiah 66:24 for his own teaching, it is wise to consider the verse he quoted so we can understand what he means. Isaiah was clearly referring to total destruction, being consumed by fire, not eternal conscious torment.
Over the years, many Christians have labored in study attempting to explain the relationship between the atonement of Jesus Christ and the salvation of mankind. This has resulted in the development of numerous atonement theories. All Christians believe that Christ died for our sins, but how the atonement works has been a matter of debate. I do not believe that any one view of the atonement must be accepted before a person can become a Christian. Believing in the death of Christ for our sins and his resurrection and being able
to explain all that it means for us are two very different things. We can always learn more about the atonement of Christ, but my position is that the combination of the principles of the Christus Victor and Moral Government models of the atonement, along with the understanding that man is conditionally immortal and the wages of sin is death, gives us the most accurate picture of what God
has done for us through the cross.
The theme of the Christus Victor view is that Christ was afflicted, not in the sense that God literally abandoned him (thus causing a lack of oneness in the Trinity) or that God’s wrath was directed toward him, but in the sense that evil men and evil spirits were allowed to have their way with him that he might deliver us from the power of sin, death, and Satan. The Lord Jesus voluntarily gave his life as a ransom, but this does not mean he had to pay God or the devil, or that sinners are “victims” as if they have no responsibility for their sins. A ransom is a price paid for the release of something or someone. Christ did not “pay” for our individual sins (as some teach), but he did pay a price (suffering and death) to free us from the power of death, the slavery of sin, and the oppression of Satan. Some Christians have been taught to look at the atonement in legal terms. God is viewed as an angry judge who is ready to send everyone to hell, while the Lord Jesus is viewed as a defense attorney who offers to take our punishment. If a person will only mentally depend on Christ as this substitute, he is saved, so some believe. What the person does going forward has no bearing on his standing with God. With this being taught, it is no surprise that many people that call themselves Christians will hear the Lord say in a coming day: “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” The Christus Victor view stresses the fact that we must participate in Christ’s death and resurrection to avail ourselves of his victory. We do this by abandoning selfishness and submitting
our lives completely to Christ and his Kingdom purposes.
God is not a merciless deity that must be “paid” before he will pardon. One can argue that this is not mercy at all. But he does have a moral government that must be upheld for the good of his creation. God’s love is the reason for his law. As most everyone knows, for law to be law, there must be a penalty for breaking the law. We not only need to be released from the power of sin, death, and Satan - we also need to be released from the penalty of sinning under God’s moral government. The governmental view holds that Christ’s death was a substitution for the punishment that human beings deserve because of their sins, but it did not consist of Christ receiving the punishment due to sinful people. The governmental view declares that Christ was not punished at all, for an innocent person cannot be punished. Furthermore, the penalty for sin is eternal death, not physical death by crucifixion, therefore Christ willingly submitted to death to provide a substitution for the penalty, not to take our punishment upon himself.
God is a holy and merciful Moral Governor. In his holiness and love, he must uphold his moral law for the good of creation. When
sin is committed, the transgressor must be punished by receiving the penalty attached to the transgression, or the moral law is undermined. Were the moral law to be undermined, God’s government would be undermined. To be just, God must hold wrong-doers accountable. But God loves mankind and does not want us to perish, therefore, he mercifully provided a substitute for our penalty in the atonement of Christ. Since Christ died “for our sins”, the moral law was upheld, public justice was maintained, and God can forgive sinners of their trespasses. In this way, God can be both just and justifier. Christ’s death does not mean that people can sin with impunity, as some suggest. It makes provision for the salvation of all in that it satisfied the governmental demands of the law (even more so than the infliction of the penalty on sinners would have) and it allows the wrath of God to “pass over” his followers. It allows God to justly forgive those who forsake their sins.
Christ “bore” our sins in the same way he “bore” the sicknesses of people in his earthly ministry. He did not become sick for them.
He took their sicknesses away. In the same way, he did not literally become sin or sinful for us, or have our literal sins placed upon him since this is impossible, rather, he suffered as a sin-offering on our behalf, and therefore he was the lamb that “taketh away the sins of the world”, meaning his sacrifice is sufficient provision for the entire world to be forgiven of their sins. As stated previously, this is not the only condition for our salvation, however. The cross of Christ satisfied public justice, but repentance from individuals
is necessary for salvation. God will forgive those who forsake sin to follow the Lord Jesus, because of the atonement. The cross is the evidence that God loves mankind and wants all to come to repentance.
The view that Christ’s death does not apply to individuals directly, but to the Church corporately, supplies a better understanding, I believe, of what it means to be a part of God’s elect. God elected that a group of people would be saved and sanctified, but not who would be a part of that elect group. (It is the same principle with Israel being God’s elect nation.) We become a part of God’s elect body by submitting to the Lordship of Christ. According to the governmental theory and the Christus Victor atonement models, individuals partake of the atonement by being attached to the Church through faith. Accordingly, people can remove themselves from the elect group by forsaking Christ.
The wages of sin is death. Not the first death, for all humans die the first death whether they are sinful or not. Even Christ, being born as a man, would have died a physical death eventually, even though he was without sin. So, it is not just the fact that he died that is all important, it is the mode of his death. Christ died a horrific public death “for our sins”, and because of this, God’s obligation to punish was cancelled. The Atonement of Christ cancelled the governmental obligation for punishment. Now, those who submit to him as Lord and walk in obedience to him will escape the second death. Through his death and resurrection, the first death has no hold on us.
The Need for Righteousness
The Bible says: "Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous." The Bible says that without holiness, no man shall see the Lord. We have no self-merit, or self-righteousness, but we must have the righteousness that is a result of obediently following Christ. It is a righteousness that we “do”, but it is a righteousness that is a result of following Christ, thus “his” righteousness becomes “our” righteousness as we follow him. Some people teach that we are righteous because Christ’s righteousness is imputed, or transferred, to our account when we believe in him, so how we live has no bearing on our salvation. The word impute does not mean to transfer. Furthermore, the Bible teaches we are saved by God’s mercy in that we are forgiven of past sins, not that we are saved by the claims of justice because Christ’s obedience is transferred to “our account.” The Bible teaches imputation, but not the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. In the words of Albert Barnes (1798-1870): “It is not that his righteousness becomes ours. This is not true; and there is no intelligible sense in which that can be understood. But it is God’s plan for pardoning sin, and for treating us as if we had not committed it…on the ground of what the Lord Jesus has done in our stead… the whole scope and design of the Psalm (Psalm 32) is to show the blessedness of the man who is forgiven, and those sins are not charged on him, but who is freed from the punishment due to his sins. Being thus pardoned, he is treated as a righteous man.” The gospel does not relieve us of the obligation to obey the Lord (Romans 6:16), it is the good news that our sins can be forgiven, and we can meet God’s terms for the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
The Kingdom of God – The Kingdoms of Men
Many professing Christians over the centuries have supported, participated in, and helped to enable the kingdoms of this world to carry out deeds that are antithetical to the purposes of the Kingdom of God. Because of the misuse of Paul’s words in Romans 13, many professing Christians have trusted more in the political power of the State than they have the power of Christ through his churches. The Bible depicts the rulers and kingdoms of this world as being hostile to God (Psalm 2). Knowing this and knowing the pain and misery that rulers and Heads of State have heaped upon earthly citizens, including Christians, and that they have been far from agents of “good”, we must learn to reconcile this with Paul’s words in Romans 13. If Paul was making the claim that we must submit to State officials and policies, this means that the Egyptian midwives should have obeyed Pharaoh and killed all the Hebrew males at their birth, that Rahab should not have hidden the Hebrew spies from the city officials that were looking for them, that the apostles should have stopped preaching that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that German Christians were obligated to participate in the holocaust. In the first three biblical examples, we see God specifically bless the individuals because of their actions – actions that defied State authority. Given these examples, some Christians believe that Paul was writing about how Christians should live under the ideal State government. Others teach that this passage is speaking of church government under the authority of the apostles, or that it could refer to church elders in general (Hebrews 13:17). Yet another interpretation is that Paul knew that those he was writing
to had no recourse in their situation against the might of Rome, and believing that Christ would return soon, Paul urged them to disregard any thoughts about any formal resistance, for the only end for them would be persecution and death. There is also something to be said about the fact that Paul knew that Nero would become aware of this letter, therefore Paul did not want Nero to see the Christians as a threat to his rule, so he urged compliance for their safety. Paul made the point that his readers should be orderly and productive citizens, lest they bring the condemnation of the “powers that be” upon themselves (see also 1 Peter 2:13-14).
I believe it is a mistake to take this passage to mean that God has placed all earthly rulers such as Kings, Emperors, Presidents, or State governing bodies into their positions, and that we are obligated to obey them. The people of Israel rejected liberty under God and demanded a King to rule over them. God told his prophet that the people had rejected him, then he told the people about the suffering they would endure under an earthly ruler (1 Samuel 8). Submission to a totalitarian State was not God’s will for his people. There is legitimate authority that has been ordained by God, or higher powers, such as family authority, Church authority, and civil authority that follows God’s moral principles, and we are to submit to these. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that we are to cede any of these to an illegitimate authority such as a Nebuchadnezzar, a Pharaoh, a Caesar, or an authoritarian State.
The Christian and the State
Many Christians agree, that in order to prevent harm, there are times we should not be subject to State policies and officials. On the other hand, due to the support of militarism, welfarism, and political authoritarianism, many professing Christians have made an idol of the State and they are hindering the purpose of God’s churches.
Nationalism is Idolatrous
Americans, including many professing Christians in America, tend to believe their interests are superior to the interests of other Nation-States. Though some nations have been more influenced by Judeo-Christian ethics than others, it is not accurate, nor appropriate, to call the United States of America a Christian nation. Some people refer to America as a Christian nation because some of the founding fathers claimed to be Christians, because the 10 commandments and other biblical references were inscribed onto buildings and currency, or because presidents have invoked the name of God in political addresses. The presence of these references do not make America a Christian nation, for strictly speaking, the concept of a Christian nation is a myth. Simply stated, America is not the Kingdom of God, America is not the new Israel, Americanism is not Christianity, America is not the world’s hope, and Christ is not an American patriot.
No one can deny that good things have occurred in the history of this nation, but to attribute this to statism, is folly. In the US, the lines between Christianity and Americanism have been blurred to the point that the two have been seen as synonymous by many. In their worship of American traditions, some often neglect to mention, or they explain away, the many instances of evil that have occurred in American history. American Indians and black people were considered “lesser races” by many, even though it is both a biblical and scientific fact that there is only one human race. American Indians were slaughtered and enslaved for the sake of expansionism. Slavery was ended, but the disdain that many Americans had for black people (because they were considered an inferior "race") continued as evidenced by the Jim Crow laws. Americans of Japanese descent were held in internment camps during WWII. None of these actions are Christ-honoring, yet political power was used to enforce them. These actions were carried out in the interest of an earthly kingdom, not in the interest of God’s Kingdom.
Some of the same people that defend American actions in the above-mentioned instances condemn Hitler and the Germans for their treatment of the Jews. The hypocrisy is astounding. WWII is often considered to be a “just” war by those who wish to defend American interventionism, but others point out the fact that America’s involvement was hypocritical because the governmental actions of their allies were not that different from the actions of their enemies. For those who think the US got involved in WWII to help the Jews, they may be surprised to hear that the US had the opportunity to receive thousands of Jews into the country rather than let them suffer at the hands of Hitler, but they were turned away by the US Government.
The worship of the military has led many professing Christians to betray the Kingdom of God. Many professing Christians will decry the abortion of American babies, but they do not say a word when people in other countries (including women and children) are killed for American interests. God’s will for the people of other nations to come to repentance is ignored for the sake of American "values". In fact, Christians in other nations are killed due to the policies of American interventionism, or their homes are destroyed, and some professing Christians in America will ask God to bless the military as it wreaks havoc in their lives. Many churchgoers are more influenced by national politics than they are the Word of God.
Pointing to the missions that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament is not a justification for claiming the US has a mission from God to destroy the people from other nations. Christ is not advancing the interests of any earthly nation today. His concern is the Kingdom of God, which is comprised of people of all nations and all languages. America’s interests have not been God's interests, though “God and Country” statists will try to tell us otherwise. Hitler also claimed that his actions were “for God and Country”, as he influenced his people toward death and destruction.
US military personnel have made many orphans and widows, not because their own families were in danger, but because the State commanded them to invade, occupy, kill, and destroy. It is certainly disturbing to hear some professing Christians attempt to defend the fact that the US military dropped two atomic bombs on the people of Japan, or that it was justifiable to bomb and slaughter the people of Iraq, who were not responsible for the deaths of Americans.
It is one thing to protect one’s family from harm, it is another to invade other nations and kill for the State because it is one’s “job”. The interventionism of the US military does not protect freedom, though this terminology is liberally used to soothe the minds of those who kill for the State or support those who kill for the State. Occupying other nations is not fighting for freedom. But even if
it was for freedom, Christ never commissioned his followers to kill for political purposes. Christ is the King of kings, yet he forbade his followers from killing for him. Are we to believe he condones killing for a president, a congress, or national hegemony? I believe
that engaging in war for the State is immoral and unjustifiable for the Christian.
There was a day when the disciples James and John, referring to their enemies, asked the Lord Jesus: "Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village."
Those who are following Christ will be living sacrifices, seeking the conversion of non-Christians, not their destruction through the US War Machine. Making the claim that military personnel are only obeying orders is no justification before God. This merely means they are paid killers. Killing, making widows, making orphans, destroying lives, is not less evil because it is State-supported or done by people in uniform. Americanism is an idol. You cannot serve two masters.
Who is My Brother’s Keeper? The Church – or the State?
Who is my brother’s keeper? Cain made this remark to God many years ago. Many believe the Government should be their brother's keeper. God’s charitable purposes through the Church have been crowded out by a dependence on secular government to find solutions for the needy. This has resulted in many local churches not carrying out this intended function, and because many professing Christians are more influenced by right versus left political views than the scriptures, they hold the poor in derision. The Bible says:
Acts 20:35 - I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Luke 14:12-14 - Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Luke 3:11 - He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
Proverbs 14:31 - He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
God has called upon Christians (individually and corporately) to be their brothers’ keepers, not to turn them over to State programs. In a nation steeped in governmental welfarism, many Christians and churches are disregarding God’s instructions to help the needy, which causes the poor to miss out on God’s benevolent purposes through the Church. Government welfarism provides money apart from morality. True Christian charity not only provides goods to the needy, it rescues people from the streets, delivers hope, restores families, and helps people position themselves to be their own providers. People need more than a handout that they can get from a government program - they need to know that someone cares. Churches must obey God’s instructions to assist the poor, the sick, the heartbroken, and the outcast (James 2).
Many professing Christians look to the State for the answer to life's problems, instead of relying on the influence and persuasion of holy Christians and churches. The Bible tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God” and to keep ourselves from becoming entangled
in the affairs of this life. This does not mean that Christians cannot seek to have an impact on the civil governance of their community, but the State is not a legitimate center of authority. I agree with those who see the State as an illegitimate entity that seeks to usurp authority from families, churches, and communities that follow natural law principles. Be that as it may, through taxation and force, we are slaves to the authoritarian State. Still, great things have happened through the witness of Christians in places where State actors have sought to curtail or even stamp out Christian practices, so it is obvious that Christianity does not need State approval to accomplish its purposes. There is something to be said for the impact that Christianity has on others when they see people preaching and following Christ when it is dangerous for them to do so. I believe Christianity makes an impact on society regardless of the actions of State officials. Even so, I believe we can seek to influence the official policies of the American State to protect Christians from earthly persecution.
There are two pathways for this endeavor, with one being the implementation of Christian practices as the law of the land, and the other being the support of legislation that gives liberty to all people to believe and do as they please without State intrusion, even if people choose to do things we disagree with. It goes without saying that liberty for all does not imply that people can violate the person and property of others with impunity. Safeguards that protect people from violence should be present in any society, though
again, the State is not necessary for this to occur, and in fact, the State's very existence relies on violence and threats of violence. Some people believe we should harness the power of the State and make the doctrines and practices of Christianity the law of the land, and as soon as we do, the better things will be for everyone. Certainly, having a society based on Christian values seems like it would be beneficial, but trying to force beliefs and behaviors upon others through the power of the State would cause more harm than good.
Whose “Christianity” should become the law of the land? There are many denominations and unaffiliated Christian churches across the country, and they differ in their doctrines, practices, and world views. Would we want a Catholic nation? A Baptist nation? A Methodist nation? A Presbyterian nation? A Calvinist or Arminian nation? A nation that believes in the enforcement of the Mosaic Law? I prefer to live in obedience to God according to my own understanding of scripture rather than having someone tell me and my family what we must do and what we must believe.
Theonomists claim that the civil laws of a State should follow the example of Israel’s civil and judicial laws under the Mosaic covenant. Some Christians may think this is a good idea. I look at this idea and see the danger of the Church-State relationship and how it jeopardizes the freedom to oppose official religious decrees being enforced by the State. God’s theocratic purposes through Israel are no longer in effect. The civil laws that God enforced in Israel were meant to protect the special relationship between himself and Israel, as well as his purposes through Israel as a nation, and we have no indication from the scriptures that God expects us to follow these practices, or that he has authorized any man-made State to enforce them.
There are some professing Christians who think that the State should enforce the death penalty for sins such as homosexuality, blasphemy, and adultery, but it is dangerous to give the State the power of life and death. (I believe in the principle of the death penalty, for certain crimes not listed here, but I am against the death penalty being in the hands of the State.) The wages of sin is death, yet throughout the scriptures we see God calling on people to repent of these kinds of sins without the death penalty being enforced by a civil body. In Israel, King David committed adultery, yet he repented, and God forgave him of his sin without putting him to death. When the religious hypocrites dragged the woman caught in the act of adultery to the Lord Jesus to place him at odds either with the directives of the Mosaic Law or the civil magistrates of Rome, the Lord put his finger on their hypocrisy, and they dropped the matter and left the scene. The Lord had a conversation with the woman and asked her: “Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?” She said: “No man, Lord.” The Lord Jesus then said: “Neither do I condemn thee; now go and sin no more (italics are mine).” We see that God’s morals are ever the same, for he did not say it was permissible for her to continue in adultery, but the idea that God uses the State to impose strict civil retribution for sin is refuted in this example and others.
It is good when churches are given the freedom to proclaim the gospel, but it is not good when the State uses religion to control the minds and behaviors of people, even if it claims to be “Christian.” People may claim they want to see moral and religious uniformity, but giving the State the power of enforcement is much more dangerous to individual Christians themselves than the political model of religious liberty, because the largest and most powerful religious group will set the standards for everyone else, and I am not in favor of that in any way. In the history of the Church, rather than having one group dictate to everyone else what it means to follow Christ, Christians have worked through theological inconsistencies via conflicts, disagreements, and freedom of thought and expression. This would be impossible in a static and State-imposed religious system.
I consider the State to be a source of evil, and as I have stated, it should not be considered synonymous with civil governance. It appears acceptable to me for a Christian to assume a role in society that pertains to civil governance as long as he exerts his influence for keeping churches and individuals free, and he does not seek to accomplish “good” by means of aggression or control, which are the hallmarks of Statehood. Christians should not look to State compulsion as the answer for the moral ills of society. For the good of humanity, the Church’s sphere of influence must increase, and the State’s sphere of power must decrease.