Welcome to the unbiased interpretation of the Bible!

This is a bold interpretation of Scriptures.
Some neglected scriptures contradict basic Christian doctrines. Other scriptures have universal value and are acceptable by followers of every religion.

I firmly believe that the truth which Revives, Unites, Liberates, Edifies and Sustains the whole man – spirit, soul and body – is the truth that RULES supreme in the Universe! This Truth, which is scattered throughout the Bible, I am prayerfully trying to unfold here.

I hope the students of the Bible will here discover some great neglected truths that nourish their soul and quench their spiritual thirst.

You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free"!

Κυριακή, 14 Νοεμβρίου 2010

"Salvation" according to the Bible

What is salvation? What does it mean for a human being to be saved? In the Bible the word salvation is used first in reference to this life, meaning forgiveness and deliverance from guilt, sickness, pain, grief, loss, calamity, etc. It is also used in reference to the life of the soul hereafter, meaning its acquittal from damnation and the acquisition of a state of eternal bliss.

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6: 6-8)
There were times in Israel’s life when the people felt convicted of their transgressions and wanted to make peace with God. At such times they wondered how...
they should approach the Almighty in order to be accepted by Him and pardoned. Should they go before Him with burnt offerings, as the Mosaic Law had established? Would the Lord be pleased with the sacrifice of baby-calves, or with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil? In cases their soul had sinned gravely, should they rather offer God the fruit of their body, even their first-born children, as the heathen did? Not-at-all!
The prophet Micah was convinced that God did not need such abominations in order to be appeased. This was an erroneous perception of the past, which Israel ought to abandon. In fact, the Lord had already shown Israel what was good for their soul and what they should do in order to make peace with him. The same requirements apply to us today: Man’s actions should be just and full of love for all God’s creatures. At the same time, man should walk with God in humility, seeking wisdom and strength in order to comply with his sovereign laws and grow spiritually, which is the very purpose of human life and the essence of salvation. 
If, then, God did not require the blood of sacrifices, human or animal, in the O.T., (“I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and he-goats.” Isa. 1: 11b), why should He require the blood of his Son in the N.T., in order to save sinners? Even Paul based his doctrine of atonement through the blood of Jesus in the validity of the O.T. sacrifices (Heb. 9: 13-14).
He who has ears, let him hear…

“He that would love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking guile; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3: 10-11)
 Here Peter gives some golden rules for man to enjoy good days, i.e. to have salvation. First he must guard his tongue and lips, avoiding speaking evil or deceitful words. Next he must turn away from iniquity and do good works. It is not enough for someone to avoid doing evil in order to be saved. He should also devote his life to doing good. Many people consider themselves righteous on the basis of not hurting anyone. But passive goodness is not sufficient to secure one’s salvation. One should be engaged in works of love and in seeking and promoting peace and justice among people.

“Therefore, my beloved, (…) work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2: 12)
 Paul makes it clear that salvation is something that man has to work out for himself. Nobody else can do it for him. Although elsewhere in his epistles Paul claims that salvation is a free gift and promotes the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, here he urges the Philippian Christians to work out their own salvation with fear of God and even with trembling! Such an awesome thing salvation is! Apparently no one can pay for somebody else’s sins, according to this verse.
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret; but worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor. 7: 10)
 The way to salvation passes through repentance. And true repentance is to feel deep sorrow for one’s actions and resolve not to continue with the wrongdoing. Grief over one’s sins is a godly grief. The tears of repentance draw the grace of God upon the contrite spirit. They are redemptive, as they wash away the dirt from one’s heart and mind, and bring joy and peace upon the penitent. On the contrary, worldly grief, e.g. undue grief over the loss of money or position, despair over bereavement or the breaking of a relationship, produces sickness that leads to death.

“And you shall be hated by all men for my name’s sake; but he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 10: 22)
 People will hate every person who resolves to follow the teaching of Christ, which was from God. The way of righteousness is not covered with roses. Those who stand for truth, love, justice and peace cannot be popular among people. On the contrary, such people will be hated by men. A godly person, who is the embodiment of light, by his/her mere presence exposes and condemns the wickedness of the ungodly and thus stirs up their hostile feelings. Disappointment, isolation and persecution follows and there is always the chance that even the godly person may give up the narrow path and conform to the world. Such a person loses his salvation, says Jesus. Only those who endure to the end of their lives, persevering in the way of righteousness, will be saved.

“And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ (…) And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10: 23, 26-27)
 The rich people stand fewer chances to enter the kingdom of God than the poor. They face more temptations to indulge in carnal living and tend to be contented with the splendor and the comfort of their material wealth. As a consequence, it is extremely difficult for them to seek spiritual enlightenment and follow the path of righteousness. However, with God all things are possible, said Jesus. God’s grace could reach even the rich people, if they seek Him diligently with a contrite spirit.

“And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when Jesus heard that, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (…) For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’.” (Matt. 9: 11-12, 13b)
Jesus was a spiritual physician who came to the world to call sinners to repentance and heal their wounded soul as well as their body. This is a clear answer to those who believe that Jesus came to atone for the so-called original sin. One may argue that all people are sinners to some degree, for we all fall short of God’s standards of righteousness. This is true, but some are worse sinners than others, and these suffer more from the consequences of their transgressions. And Jesus was primarily concerned with those people, such as tax collectors and prostitutes. He often associated with sinners, showing them compassion, for he knew that they were sin-sick people, needing his healing touch, blessing and instructions more than others.

“Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven; for I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5: 19-20)
One should observe all God’s commandments, even the least of those, and teach others to do the same, in order to be called great in the spiritual kingdom. Jesus never misled his disciples that entering the kingdom of heaven would be an easy matter. Neither confession of faith in him nor external conformity to the law was enough to enable someone to enter God’s spiritual kingdom. The disciple’s righteousness should exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, who were very punctual in observing the ceremonial appointments of the Mosaic Law, fasted, gave alms and prayed publicly. Those had all the external signs of piousness, but still could not enter the kingdom of heaven! Why? Because their heart was not pure, and hence all the woes that Jesus had pronounced against them. They were hypocrites.
 Keeping all the rituals of one’s religion, or professing faith in Christ and his redemptive work on the cross does not make a person godly. If one’s heart is full of pride, envy, hatred, lust, greed and other evil traits, he/she cannot enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God.

“(…)‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ And Jesus said to him, (…) You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.’
 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.” (Mark 10: 17b, 18a, 19-22)
 Every time Jesus was asked how one could inherit eternal life, he gave a different answer, depending on the spiritual state of the inquirer. It seems that there are different classes or stages in the process of spiritual development. The first stage is for one to keep the Ten Commandments. In this case the inquirer admitted that he was keeping them. So Jesus went further asking the man to give up his material wealth in favor of the poor and follow him. This way he could accumulate spiritual treasure in heaven. On hearing Jesus’ answer, the inquirer’s countenance fell and he went away sorrowful! His attachment to material wealth made it impossible for him to follow Jesus all the way…
 It appears, then, that the spiritual treasure one secures in heaven is proportionate to the material comforts one gives up on earth.

“And Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost’.” (Luke 19: 8-10)
Zacchaeus’ repentance was genuine and deep. Otherwise he wouldn’t have been motivated to give half of his goods to the poor and restore to others fourfold of what he had taken from them by fraud! The attachment to one’s riches is very strong and it takes the grace of the Holy Spirit to break the chains of the prisoner of Mammon. Zacchaeus’ soul was lost in the pursuit of money. However, his heart was touched and liberated by Jesus, who came to seek the lost and lead them to repentance and salvation with his anointed teaching. The salvation of Zacchaeus opened the way for the salvation of his household.

“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. (…) You are my friends if you do what I command you. (…) This I command you, that you love one another.”  (John 15: 10, 14, 17)
 The prerequisite for someone to abide in God’s love is for the same to keep the Lord’s commandments. That’s how Jesus also abided in God’s love. There is no other way for someone to become a friend of Jesus. And Jesus’ commandments are stricter than the Ten Commandments. Unconditional love of one’s neighbor is the greatest of them. Indeed love is the alpha and the omega of salvation.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.” (John 8: 51)
 If one keeps the word of Jesus, the same will not suffer the death of his/her soul. There is no short cut about it. No confession of Biblical verses, no partaking in sacraments, no belief in the blood of Jesus, as some popular Christian doctrines advocate, can save a person. Only compliance to his word will do this.

“And someone said to him, ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able’.” (Luke 13: 23-24)
 How many are those who will be saved? This is the question put to Jesus, which also creeps in everybody’s mind, as one takes a look at oneself and the world about us. If we want to be sincere with ourselves, we will answer: ‘nobody’. For we all fall short of Jesus’ standards. But Jesus was more optimistic and his answer was rather diplomatic: “Strive to enter the narrow gate.” Apparently, the gate through which one enters the kingdom of God is not wide but very narrow. So narrow that although many want to enter it, very few will be able to succeed. It takes a great deal of self-denial for someone to squeeze through the narrow gate.

“Strive for peace with all men, and for holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” (Heb.12: 14)
 Once again we have Paul, the very disciple who founded the doctrine of salvation by faith in Jesus’ blood, talking about holiness. Without holiness no man shall see God! There is no salvation of one’s soul without sanctity. So, one should strive to be holy, and also to have peace with all men, in order to see, i.e. to experience the presence of the Lord. For, as we learn from other scriptures, no one can ever see the infinite God, who is Spirit.

 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name? And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’.” (Matt. 7: 21-23)
 Jesus makes it clear that confessing his name is not enough to secure entrance into the kingdom of heaven. So, those who rest assured in the popular Pauline doctrine, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”, will be in for a shocking surprise. On the Day of Judgment, unless they had been doing the will of God while on earth, Jesus will say to them: “I never knew you”. Likewise, prophesying and casting out demons in Jesus’ name does not guarantee entrance into the kingdom of heaven. One could have received some spiritual gifts but this on itself doesn’t make one fit for the kingdom of heaven.

 “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’.” (Matt. 16: 24-25)
 If someone wants to be Jesus’ disciple he/she must do exactly what Jesus did. Things are not going to be easier for the disciple, not even on the assumption that ‘Jesus died for his sins’. If Jesus denied himself, the same must the disciple do, taking up his/her own cross and following him. Saving one’s life (soul) for eternity, means losing it here on earth. It means giving up ordinary worldly pleasures and comforts for the sake of others and denying the gratification of one’s senses.

“Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (…) Command and teach these things. (…) Take heed to yourself and to the teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you shall save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim. 4: 7b-8, 11, 16)
 Paul exalts the importance of training oneself in godliness. This is useful in every way, not only for the life to come but also for the life in the here and now. Through godliness one experiences joy, peace and health, i.e. one enjoys abundant life. So one must take heed of the messages of the New Testament on godliness, and also preach them to others, for they are of great value.

“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (Jam. 2: 24)
 It appears that the doctrine of justification by faith alone had taken root very early in the Christian Church and James was opposing it. In the above verse he stresses that faith alone is not enough for someone to be saved. The believer also needs to do godly works. In fact, good works will be the natural outcome of a healthy faith in God.

“And Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him’.” (Acts 10: 34-35)
 Who is acceptable to God? Is, peradventure, the person who believes that Christ is God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, who was incarnated 2000 years ago to shed his blood on the cross in order to redeem mankind from the grips of Satan? Not at all!
Peter makes it very clear: acceptable to God is everyone, from every race, who fears the Almighty and does what is right. This is it then! There is no ground left here for far-fetched blood doctrines that have their roots in pagan beliefs and practices and have given rise to pride, fanaticism, fragmentations and many religious wars throughout the last twenty centuries.

“He who overcomes will be dressed in white, and I will not erase his name from the book of life, but I will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev. 3: 5-6)
This is a figurative message of Christ to the Church of Sardis. It is obvious that salvation is not a permanent state of a believer. One could have approached God with sincerity and repentance, and for a while his/her name might have appeared in the book of life. Yet, if the same backslides, his/her name will be erased from that book. But it takes discernment (an ear) for someone to understand what the Spirit says to the Churches…

“Blessed are those who keep his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, (…).” (Rev. 22: 14a)
These words are written in the last chapter of Revelation, which is the last book of the New Testament. So we are entitled to believe that they are final and decisive for the salvation of a person. Who, then, has right to the tree of life, i.e. to eternal life? The answer is very clear: the person who keeps God’s Commandments.

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.’
Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ (…)‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you,  “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.’
Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can this be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not know these things?’ ” (John 3: 1-3, 6-10)
The above Biblical story is very popular and the most publicized one during the last century. The slogan “born again” served as a powerful magnet that drew millions of people into the arms of Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches all over the world. Many Christians experience this new birth, i.e. undergo a dramatic change in their lives, after a sincere repentance and willingness to conform to God’s commandments. Others, who had never had an inner conviction of their sinfulness, label themselves as born again simply because they recited some words of faith which their pastor or the itinerant evangelist dictated them.
The question to which we are called to answer is if there are certain rules for one to follow in order to initiate this new birth or regeneration of his/her soul. Jesus did not give such recipe to Nicodemus. On the contrary, he said that the Spirit of God is like the wind, which blows where it wills and nobody knows whence it comes and wither it goes. As we understand, then, this new birth takes two to come about, just like the physical birth does. For the spiritual birth of a man there must be an interaction between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. Now, which one takes the first step is a mystery. Does the Spirit of God call the spirit of man first, or does the spirit of man first cry to God, ‘Abba Father’?
In any case, this new birth is not a privilege of those who believe in Christ, nor is it the result of the work of Jesus on the cross, as the evangelical Christians believe. If it were, Jesus would have not told Nicodemus that, as a teacher of Israel, he ought to know ‘how this can be’. Apparently even the Jews of the Old Testament could experience this new birth, and surely many did, just as the followers of every other religion can and do. Thousands of people of every religious persuasion have been blessed by a revival of their spirit and can witness to a great change in their lives, i.e. to a new birth. Obviously the born again experience has to do with the condition of a person’s heart and not with the doctrines one adheres to with his/her mind.

“Whosoever is born of God does not commit sin, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God.” (1 John 3: 9)
 A genuine new birth results in sinlessness, according to St. John. The person who is born of God, cannot sin, says this verse. Is it possible for a human being, who is living in an earthen vessel and is given a free will, not to sin? In my opinion, even one who is born of God can fall into temptation and sin, with the only difference that the smallest transgression makes him so miserable that he/she does not want to deliberately sin. In any case, a person who cannot sin has no need to continue living on this earth, which is a school for spiritual perfection.

“My little children, for whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.” (Gal. 4: 19)
Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians believe that, from the moment they accepted Jesus as their personal Savior, Christ lives in them. Many of them even believe that those who have not “received” Christ have the devil living in them! However, in the above verse Paul says different things. Christ cannot be “received” as one takes a pill. Christ’s teaching and example must be followed by those who profess that he is their Lord and Savior, in order for the Christ principle to be formed in them. Once formed, the Christ principle must grow so that the life of the believer may become like that of Jesus. In the case of Galatian Christians, it seems that some had backslidden and so Paul was again in laborious prayer (travail) so that the Christ principle should be formed again in their inner man.

 “But thanks be to God, that you, who were once servants of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching which was delivered to you; and being made free from sin, you became servants of righteousness. (…)
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become servants to God, you have your fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life.” (Rom. 6: 17-18, 22)
When one becomes willingly (from the heart) obedient to the standard of teaching of the saints, he/she is gradually set free from sin and becomes servant of God, i.e. servant of righteousness. Then the fruit of one’s spirit will be holiness and the end eternal life. This then is the process of one’s salvation.

 “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezek. 18: 20)
Jesus said he did not come to abolish the Old Testament law and the prophets but to fulfill them. Ezekiel, one of the major prophets of the O.T., says that no one should be punished for the sins of another. The wickedness of the wicked shall be upon themselves. Why then God would have Jesus take upon himself the sins of the world, as the Christians believe? Why should an innocent become accursed? (Gal. 3:13). Is this divine justice? And how was the curse of the law, which was supposedly put on Jesus upon the cross, removed?
These are questions to which the evangelical and Pentecostal Christians must answer, if their faith should be founded on stable foundation.

I believe the scriptures which I have quoted above are enough to prove that the Bible itself makes the popular doctrine of easy salvation by faith in Jesus blood obsolete.