Can you think of anything that all of us would agree on one hundred percent of the time? I suggest there are few subjects or issues, if any, where we see all points the same. We cannot even agree on the most basic questions of life; like is there a God, how life began, or what our purpose is. People disagree in politics, religion and social matters. What is your favorite color, food, or television show? Clearly we don’t see eye to eye on everything.
Some differences of opinion have no real effect in our lives, while others do. You prefer Chinese food and I would rather have Mexican food. Not a big deal unless we are trying to decide where to eat. On the other hand, I believe in God but you do not is a much more important dispute. It is one with eternal weight, because if you are wrong you will have to face Him someday. So while we are free to believe anything we want, we are not free from its effects.
An opinion is nothing more than a conclusion drawn from what we consider trusted evidence. That is not to say evidence is always accurate, because we can and do believe error sometimes. We may also skew the facts for personal reasons. In other words, one’s view about right and wrong, truth and error, may stem from his unique experiences. These come from the way parents raise us and what happens along the way in life. So if I want to believe something chances are I will. And simply because I judge an opinion true does not necessarily make it sensible, logical, or right. That is why we can look at the same evidence, but not reach the same conclusions.
I don’t know why, but some feel as if Bible truth is unknowable just because people disagree about truth. I have also heard people say, “If it was important to God He would have made the teaching clearer.” So let me get this straight, if we disagree on what the Bible teaches then truth vanishes forever or the topic is unimportant to God. If either view is right, then there is no truth because we cannot find a single statement of faith everyone agrees on. I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to say either one because it ties truth to man’s fickle opinion. I do know this, what we believe changes nothing about Divine Will.
I would also argue God is clear in His teaching, and says exactly what He means and means exactly what He says. The problem of misunderstand is always with us. We take bits and pieces of statements out of context to make them fit what we already believe. Maybe it is what we want to believe or what someone taught us to believe. Either way we fail to include all of what God says in our faith.
Let me prove my point with some of the most basic teaching in the Bible, how God saves us. The story begins with God showing His love for us by sending His Son to die for us. (1 John 4:9) This is Divine grace, favor shown to us without our merit. Paul said, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. (Rom. 5:8) Jesus was God’s gift to man. And while most Christian faiths believe this part of the story, many want to stop right here. The problem is, the story does not end with God sending His Son. There is more to saving man than the death of Christ, or else God would save everyone, for Jesus died for all.
Few believe God will save everyone, and so to explain the lost and saved they again turn to God’s grace. They believe God withholds his grace from some and gives it to others. In other words, He chooses the lost and saved, and they quote Paul to prove this point. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9) Now while I agree with the apostle’s statement and teach the same, I do not support a Calvinist interpretation of these verses. You see I also believe and teach Peter’s words when he said “Save yourselves from this perverse generation”. (Acts 2:40) So we do not sit back and do nothing, waiting for God to do everything.
For many, even faith is solely God’s work, done for us and to us by the Holy Spirit. He miraculously comes into our hearts and touches us in a way that makes it possible for us to respond. The problem with this picture is that it lacks even a shred of biblical evidence. None of the responses in Acts have anything like this. What we find instead, is the gospel preached (the true work of the Holy Spirit), and then people choosing to believe and respond or not. (Acts 2:36-41) Paul said “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17)
The same God who said grace through faith saves us also said baptism saves. (1 Peter 3:20-21) When the people in Acts 2 wanted to know what to do, Peter said “Repent, and… be baptized… for the remission of sin”. (Acts 2:38) Ananias told Saul to “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins”. (Acts 22:16)
The idea that we do nothing to save ourselves is foreign to Bible teaching and it contradicts clear Bible statements. Paul said “Work out you own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) James taught “that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” (James 2:24)
I know people disagree about God’s Word, but His teaching is not hard to understand. You may not share my opinion about these matters, but what we believe changes nothing. God has spoken and we must listen and obey.