On the sixth day "God created man in His own image" (Ge 1:27) in "spirit and soul and body" (1Th 5:23). "It is I who made the earth and created man upon it" (Isa 45:12). "It was Adam who was first created" (1Ti 2:13) and in Hebrew his name means "humanity." In an extended sense the word "flesh" is also humanity. The human race inherits from Adam for, "as in Adam all" (1Co 15:22), applies to everyone. "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good" (Ge 1:31). Therefore it cannot be concluded that man is inherently sinful.
When God put Adam in the Garden of Eden he "commanded the man" (Ge 2:16) "from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die" (:17). It was not said that "you will drop dead" as if it was poisonous. So to die must mean that death was not part of God's scheme of things, but it would transpire if Adam was disobedient. Later it happened that "every intent of the thoughts of . . . [man's] heart was only evil continually" (6:5). So God "was sorry that He had made man on the earth" (:6).
Much later John saw the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (Jn 1:29). Jesus "will save His people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). Your sins will be "wiped away" (Ac 3:19). How is this accomplished? It is because "Christ died for our sins" (1Co 15:3). In society there is a penalty to pay when someone has transgressed the law. It is a legal matter of "judgment" (Jn 5:24). "Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb 9:22). "'The life of the flesh is in the blood . . . for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement'" (Lev 17:11). God anticipated this because Christ "was foreknown before the foundation of the world" (1Pe 1:20) and "His works were finished from the foundation of the world" (Heb 4:3). Therefore Christ became "the Lamb that was slain" (Rev 5:12) "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10).Christ "gave himself as a ransom for all" (1Ti 2:6).
"The Lord fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man" (Ge 2:22) and they "were both naked and were not ashamed" (:25). But when they ate of the fruit of the tree "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked so they . . . made coverings for themselves" (3:7). They had "become like one of us knowing good and evil" (:22). Did they know being naked as good or evil? They didn't feel shame before, but it seems they did now. They had to replace the innocence of their previous condition with a covering and God, himself, had to make "garments of skin for Adam and his wife" (:21). In Laodicea they didn't know that they were "wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked" (Rev 3:17). God advises "buy from me . . . white garments that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed" (3:18).
What had Adam done? He was "the one who sinned" (Ro 5:16). What is sin? It is a "transgression" (:15) or "offense" (:15 KJV). It is also a "trespass" (:15 RSV). You've seen signs saying "NO TRESPASSING." "God commanded . . . you shall not eat" (Ge 2:16-17). But Adam violated the command. "Through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners" (Ro 5:19). The result was "through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin" (:12). But others "had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam" (:14). Then "death spread to all men" (:12) because "in Adam all die" (1Co 15:22). Sin is the culprit because "the sting of death is sin" (1Co 15:56). "The wages of sin is death" (Ro 6:23). Therefore "sin reigned in death" (5:21) and "death reigned" (:17). "Death works in us" (2Co 4:12). One might respond that everyone has to die naturally anyway. But you should consider "him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Heb 2:14).
What must we be saved from? We must be "saved from wrath" (Ro 5:9). The reason for the wrath as explained to Adam is "'because you have listened to the voice of your wife . . . cursed is the ground because of you'" (Ge 3:17). Is God angry at the world? On the contrary, "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (Jn 3:16). It is not a matter of retribution because "God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world" (:17). Jesus said "'I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE', for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mt 9:13). "Having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent" (Ac 17:30). The Holy Spirit convicts "'the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin because they do not believe in Me'" (Jn 16:8-9).
Some might say that the rendition of Adam and Eve is just a metaphor because evolution proves otherwise. But consider how seriously the Bible treats Adam's disobedience.
The results are:
"By a man came death" (1Co 15:21). Death is firstly interpreted as physical death. "Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death" (Heb 11:5). "It is appointed for men to die once" (9:27). Sin contributes to the inevitable. It is "cause and effect" because it's a "law of sin and of death" (Ro 8:2).
There is a direct relationship between how you live and it's consequences:
Paul was acutely aware of sin. "Those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh" (Ro 8:5). "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God" (:8). He made it clear that it wasn't just his opinion of what sin is. In fact, even though "sin was in the world . . . [it was] not imputed" (5:13) before the law. "Apart from the Law sin is dead" (7:8). "I would not have come to know sin except through the Law" (:7). It was a "commandment, which was to result in life" (:10) by way of a "ministry . . . in letters engraved on stones" (2Co 3:7). "The Law came in so that the transgression would increase" (Ro 5:20). Therefore "the Law is spiritual" (7:14).
This behavior is explained as man's "flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). It could be said that man's human nature is physical, sensuous and earthy. "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Mt 26:41). Man's flesh is but "a wind that passes and does not return" (Ps 78:39). "All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades" (Isa 40:6-7). He continues with "the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these" (Gal 5:19-21).
Paul concludes by saying "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Ro 7:18). "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jer 17:9). He states "no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" (:17). Sin reigns "in your mortal body" (6:12) and is a "body of death" (7:24). "The Scripture has shut up everyone under sin" (Gal 3:22) "making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members" (Ro 7:23). The "pleasures of sin" (Heb 11:25) "easily entangles" (12:1) and sin can become "master over you" (Ro 6:14). It has "lusts" (:12) and "coveting of every kind" (7:8). You can be "led into" (2Co 11:29) and "caught in any trespass" (Gal 6:1). Then you can "be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 3:13).
"If by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Ro 8:13). If you live then does that mean you won't die? That isn't the context, for another interpretation of death is that you are not alive spiritually. "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die" (Rev 3:1-2). "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich" (:18). "Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief" (:3) and "remove your lampstand out of its place" (2:5). God both gives and takes. Realistically speaking "to live is Christ" (Php 1:21) and "in Christ all will be made alive" (1Co 15:22). Since "Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness" (Ro 8:10).
People say "I'm a good person. I even believe there is a God. If there is a hell I wouldn't go there because I'm not a bad person." So where would you fit in with Romans 1:18 which says "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness"? Supposedly you wouldn't suffer God's wrath if you weren't godless or wicked. What does "godless" mean? If you didn't believe in God then that would qualify. But James 2:19 says that even "the demons also believe, and shudder." Does that qualify them as being a friend of God free from God's wrath? By definition they are not in that category even though they are familiar with God.
The goal is to get to heaven, but how? If you know the proprietor then you would be allowed entry. The key is knowing God. It must be in a personal way, otherwise, "'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME'" (Mt 7:23). It is possible because Romans 1:19 talks of "that which is known about God." It is the "truth of God" (:25) and is "understood" (:20). Daniel 12:4 says in the last days "knowledge will increase." Since God "made the heavens with skill" (Ps 136:5) does man know God by intelligence and reason? That is not possible because to make the leap from the physical to the eternal requires God's revelation. "God made it evident to them . . . since the creation of the world" (Ro 1:19-20). "His invisible attributes . . . have been clearly seen . . . through what has been made so that they are without excuse" (:20). This includes "His eternal power and divine nature" (:20). This revelation is "faith [which] comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (10:17). In Greek it is "rhema" which means the "Living Word" or God himself speaking. It operates continually for "I have drawn you with lovingkindness" (Jer 31:3).
"Since the creation . . . [God is] clearly seen" (Ro 1:20). That "they knew God" (:21) you get the impression that it was the default condition of man to know him. However, Romans 1:18-32 explains that God's wrath is directed against the unrighteous. According to Paul they didn't start out that way. Does this discuss man's downhill slide from the beginning or is it a picture of every person's potential journey established by choosing his own fate? In a negative sense it is God's wrath one would wish to avoid, but in a positive way it is being saved by Jesus' provision which insulates from wrath. The question is where is our starting point? Are we inherently righteous because it says that man knew God from creation? If that was the case then if someone didn't spoil his own inherent righteousness God would rescue him regardless even though he hadn't heard the Gospel. But the Bible doesn't say that. It says in Romans 5:19 that "through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners." If men are inherently sinful then they must be saved regardless of whether they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Ro 1:18) or not.
What constitutes the backsliding Paul relates which a conscientious person would endeavor to avoid? They didn't apply their knowledge since "they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks" (Ro 1:21). It was a deliberate decision because "they did not see fit to acknowledge God" (:28). They "suppress the truth" (:18). They "exchanged the glory" (:23) and "the truth of God for a lie" (:25). In their pride they claimed "to be wise" (:22) and "worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (:25). By their behavior they sealed their own fate. When they "became futile in their speculations" (:21) it gave "birth to sin . . . [which] brings forth death" (Jas 1:15). Therefore God "gave them over" (Ro 1:24, 26, 28) to the desires of their hearts. "Their foolish heart was darkened" (:21) in the form of "impurity" (:24) and "degrading passions" (:26) which are acts of sexual indecency. They received "in their own persons the due penalty of their error" (:27). Finally "God gave them over to a depraved mind" (:28) and worse things happened. This would bring into question the doctrine of eternal security. If they didn't "hold fast . . . until the end" (Heb 3: 6) then they wouldn't be saved.
Is God's judgment complicated because there are so many different people and religions? Perhaps it can be simplified to just the Jew and the Gentile. God "desires all men to be saved" (1Ti 2:4). It is evaluated when we all "appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (2Co 5:10). "All the nations will be gathered before Him" (Mt 25:32). It is "on the day when . . . God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus" (Ro 2:16). God has clearly revealed his divinity and power such that it is obvious and "they are without excuse" (1:20) if they don't concur. This is at the "great white throne" (Rev 20:11). "The dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (:12). "He will separate them from one another" (Mt 25:32) and "say to those on His right, 'Come . . . inherit the kingdom'" (:34) and "those on His left, 'Depart from Me'" (:41). "Those who did the good deeds [will go] to a resurrection of life, [and] those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment " (Jn 5:29). We know God is fair because he "does not show partiality" (Dt 10:17) and "in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him" (Ac 10:34-35).
Judgment and reward are synonymous because "My reward is with Me" (Rev 22:12). God will "render to every man according to what he has done" (Rev 22:12). He will "search the heart, . . . test the mind . . . [and] give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds" (Jer 17:10). Each will "be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done" (2Co 5:10). There are principles God judges by. "Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Gal 6:7-8).
How do you qualify to get to heaven? "Not everyone . . . will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father" (Mt 7:21). God will give "to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life" (Ro 2:7). "The judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things" (2:2). There is "the truth of God" (1:25). Therefore following the truth is essential. What do you think the destiny of those who "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (1:18), "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (:25), and "do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness" (2:8) will be? There will be "wrath and indignation . . . tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil" (:8-9). You take the wrong direction when you don't "honor Him as God or give thanks" (1:21). When you claim "to be wise" (:22) yourself and do "not see fit to acknowledge God any longer" (:28) you become "selfishly ambitious" (2:8). "It flatters him in his own eyes . . . [and] he has ceased to be wise and to do good" (Ps 36:2-3). You serve instead "the creature rather than the Creator" (Ro 1:25) and your "heart was darkened" (:21). "You are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of . . . the righteous judgment of God" (2:5). Their "end will be according to their deeds" (2Co 11:15). But if you go the right direction there will be "glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good" (Ro 2:10).
The Jew has the Law, so you might say God judges them that way since "the doers of the Law will be justified" (Ro 2:13). Also, "all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law" (:12). Then, Gentiles who do not have the law but "have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law" (:12). In addition, "if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?" (:26). What about a person who does NOT "suppress the truth (Ro 1:18)", has NOT "exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image" (:23), and has NOT "exchanged the truth of God for a lie" (:25)? They would be Gentiles who "do instinctively the things of the Law . . . [which are] a law to themselves" (Ro 2:14). It would "show the work of the Law written in their hearts" (:15). When "God made it evident to them" (Ro 1:19) it was to their heart. "God has allotted to each a measure of faith" (Ro 12:3). Even Paul recognized that he "received [his revelation] from the Lord" (1Co 11:23) and he "received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal 1:12). Therefore "choose for yourselves today whom you will serve" (Jos 24:15). You don't receive salvation by osmosis. Be careful because "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2Co 4:4).
Two characters in the Bible were concerned about the consequences of what they had heard. Nicodemus was "a ruler of the Jews" (Jn 3:1) and Jesus concurred saying he was a "teacher of Israel" (:10). The Jews had the Torah but "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb 10:4). Jesus said to him "'unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God'" (Jn 3:3). Jesus also had a rich young man come to him and ask "'what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'" (Mk 10:17). He was like Nicodemus and said "'I have kept all these things from my youth up'" (:20). But Jesus' solution was "'go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me'" (:21).
There are specific instructions to accomplish this. You must:
Salvation is available because:
Yard sales are popular. You hear about them in the newspaper or from signs on the street. Salvation is popular, but unless you hear about it, you can't find it. "'There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved'" (Ac 4:12). Therefore "'WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED'" (Ro 10:13). For if they don't know about Jesus Christ then they can't call upon his name, and since there is "no other name" (Ac 4:12) they can't be saved and go to heaven. In fact the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Ro 1:16). Without access to it, salvation is scripturally impossible.
One might say that this is easier said than done. Even Jesus said "'it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven'" (Mt 19:23). The disciples responded, "'Then who can be saved?'" (:25). Jesus replied, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (:26). Jesus instructs "'Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed'" (Mt 8:13. "'All things are possible to him who believes'" (Mk 9:23).
Romans 10:8-18 summarizes Paul's message. The fact that "the word is . . . in your heart" (Ro 10:8) is equivalent to being "within them" (1:19). "The word of faith which we are preaching" (10:8) has gone to "the ends of the world" (:18). The verse quotes "the heavens are telling of the glory of God" (Ps 19:1). God's "invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature . . . [are] understood through what has been made" (Ro 1:20). According to Paul it is now "their voice" (10:18) and "their words" (:18) instead of the heavens doing the preaching. So if someone has "never heard" (10:18) the message he will not have the "faith" (:17) to "call upon the name of the Lord" (:13). If you have the message and "if you confess . . . and believe . . . [in Jesus] you shall be saved" (:9).
You must hear:
There's a saying "seeing is believing." However, Jesus said "'you have seen Me and yet do not believe'" (Jn 6:36). "He who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb 11:6). "Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Ro 10:9). How do you hear with your heart? "'If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him'" (Rev 3:20). Communication is "inspired by God" (2Ti 3:16). "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit" (Ro 8:16). When Peter heard, Jesus said, "'flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven'" (Mt 16:17). It is by "faith which comes through Him" (Ac 3:16). "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Ro 10:17). Therefore it is "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8-9). But when you hear the sayings you must "'act on them'" (Mt 7:26). Otherwise you will be like "'those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved'" (Lk 8:12).
Believing is positive and not passive. It reflects that you are a "new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2Co 5:17). You have been delivered from "the domain of darkness, and transferred . . . to the kingdom of His beloved Son" (Col 1:13). It is essential that it be expressed. "Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God" (1Jn 4:15). Confession is made "resulting in salvation" (Ro 10:10). "'Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven'" (Mt 10:32).
By a deliberate decision you "believed" (Eph 1:13), "received" (Jn 1:12) and were "reconciled to God" (Ro 5:10). You have "redemption through His blood" (Eph 1:7). Redemption is the price paid to ransom you from slavery to sin. The Father "will pass over you" (Ex 12:13) and "you were sealed in Him" (Eph 1:13) because you profess dependence upon the "covering" of the blood of Christ for your life. You are no longer bound by your tendency to commit sin. You "have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb 10:10) and "reconciled to God through the death of His Son" (Ro 5:10).
"All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way" (Isa 53:6). Since man couldn't help himself God decided to solve the problem. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (Jn 3:16) as a propitiation. He was "revealed" (1Ti 3:16) and sent "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Ro 8:3), "has come in the flesh" (1Jn 4:2), and was made "in the likeness of men" (Php 2:7) as a "descendant of David" (Ro 1:3). He "was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification" (Ro 4:25). God "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf" (2Co 5:21) and he was "offered once to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9:28). "He died to sin once for all" (Ro 6:10) and "condemned sin in the flesh" (8:3). Therefore "consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (6:11). We are "always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body" (2Co 4:10). Because of what Christ accomplished "the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God" (Gal 2:20). Paul said "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (:20).
It appears as though you're leading a double life. But that's not a good thing because "a double-minded man, [is] unstable in all his ways" (Jas 1:8). Therefore you have to stay focused. "The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace" (Ro 8:6). "Set your mind on the things above" (Col 3:2). "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Ro 12:2). "As He is, so also are we in this world" (1Jn 4:17) and, of course, He is in heaven. To put it into practice we "present yourselves to God . . . as instruments of righteousness" (Ro 6:13). "Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men" (Col 3:23). Even the twenty-four elders didn't take credit for what they did because they "cast their crowns before the throne" (Rev 4:10). It is a matter of perspective giving credit to God who created it all. John said "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). "If we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord" (Ro 14:8).
The way God justifies today is based upon how he declared Abraham righteous. God promised Abraham "'in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed'" (Ge 22:18). God referenced the stars and stated "'So shall your descendants be'" (15:5). "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (:6). His hope was in the promise and his faith was in "the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb 11:1). Abraham had "the faith . . . that he might be the father of all who believe" (Ro 4:11). He believed that God was "able also to perform" (:21) it. Then God's ability produced Isaac and Abraham became "heir of the world" (:13).
There is more to this promise than meets the eye. It was also made to "'your seed,' that is, Christ" (Gal 3:16). "Scripture . . . preached the gospel beforehand" (:8) in the Old Testament which was a "covenant previously ratified by God" (:17). That is why it is not a blanket promise to heirs of the Jewish race as "to seeds" (:16) but rather to "the seed [who] would come to whom the promise had been made" (:19). The promise is the "blessing of Abraham which might come to the Gentiles" (:14). "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise" (:29). The promise is "given to those who believe" (:22). "It is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham" (:7), "blessed with Abraham, the believer" (:9), and ultimately "sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (:26). This is the promise of the gospel which says "he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and . . . has passed out of death into life" (Jn 5:24). We therefore "receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:14). The righteousness of God is revealed "through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe" (Ro 3:22).This results in justification and being written in the "book of life" (Rev 20:15).
What is justification composed of? You are "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness" (Ro 3:24-25). Christ gave "His life a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28) and therefore "in Him we have redemption through His blood" (Eph 1:7). If you believe that he is the "propitiation for our sins" (1Jn 2:2) then "by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works" (Eph 2:8-9). You become "the righteousness of God in Him" (2Co 5:21). God justifies you by declaring you righteous because you believe that Christ accomplished something for you since you couldn't do it yourself. To him who "believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness" (Ro 4:5). Crediting is an accounting term denoting transferring value to someone's account. God deposits Christ's righteousness to your account if you believe which results in justification. In addition, just as Abraham was circumcised "having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph 1:13). God "gave to us the Spirit as a pledge" (2Co 5:5). The goal becomes being "conformed to the image of His Son" (Ro 8:29). This is accomplished "through sanctification by the Spirit" (2Th 2:13). "'To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God'" (Rev 2:7).
Jesus spoke a parable about a farmer sowing seed (Mt 13:3-23). The seed is "the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven" (:11). The soil is the one who "hears the message" (:18) and "hears the word" (:20). There is the one who "received the seed . . . and understands it" (:23). In the disciples' case Jesus prayed, "'I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them'" (Jn 17:8). But in the parable Jesus cautioned that trouble, persecution, worries or wealth could counteract the word. Hebrews warns "we must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (2:1). The apostle Peter said that the prophets were "searching intently" (1Pe 1:11) but "we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it" (2Pe 1:19). The apostle John said "we proclaim to you what we have seen and heard" (1Jn 1:3) and "this is the message we have heard from him and declare to you" (:5). "See to it that you do not refuse him who is speaking" (Heb 12:25). Hebrews points out that "this salvation, which was first announced, was confirmed to us by those who heard him" (2:3). What Peter and John taught is official doctrine. Jesus advised let "'my words remain in you'" (Jn 15:7) and for them to "'remain in me, and I will remain in you'" (:4). He also said "'If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love'" (10). He warned the church of Ephesus, "'You have forsaken your first love'" (Rev 2:4) and instructed "'do the things you did at first" (:5). "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Heb 2:3).
When Jesus appeared to John from heaven he cited works done by some churches (Rev 2:2,19; 3:1,8,15). But for Sardis he said, "'I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead'" (3:1). For Laodicea he said, "'I know your deeds, that you are neither, cold nor hot'" (:15). There's a saying "out of sight, out of mind." So if you don't cultivate a consistent, personal relationship with God through prayer, your deeds may be cerebral, but not from the heart serving God. To be in touch Peter suggests "set your hope fully on the grace to be given you" (1Pe 1:13). To stay focused "prepare your minds for action" (:13) and "be self-controlled and alert" (5:8). But there's another worldly saying that a religious person can be "so heavenly preoccupied that he's no earthly good." Are heaven and earth mutually exclusive? Peter refers to God's people as "strangers in the world" (1Pe 1:1) and to "live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear" (:17). But when something bad happens do you revert back to survival mode? Peter explains that when you "suffer grief in all kinds of trials [they happen] so that your faith . . . may be proved genuine" (:6-7).
This perspective is such that "you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls" (:9). "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him" (1Pe 1:3). Therefore "in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord" (3:15). Peter says "live as free men" (2:16) and "love life and see good days" (3:10). Be eager to do good (:13) and keep a clear conscience (:16). Respect everyone (2:17) and do not fear what others fear (3:14). Speak as though they are God's words (4:11) and serve with the strength God provides (:11). Resist the devil standing on your faith (5:9) and after a while God will restore you and make you strong (:10).
The ultimate test was experienced by some in Smyrna who the devil threw in prison who Jesus told to, "'Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life'" (Rev 2:10). However, we "through faith are shielded by God's power" (1Pe 1:5). Furthermore, Jesus said, "'If you remain in me . . . ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you'" (Jn 15:7). He said you can even "'say to this mountain 'Move from here to there' and it will move'" (Mt 17:20). Nonetheless, Jesus asked "'may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will'" (26:39). "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps" (1Pe 2:21). "He did not retaliate . . . [but rather] entrusted himself to him who judges justly" (:23). On the cross he called out, "'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit'" (Lk 23:46).