Monday, April 30, 2018

The definition of the word “paradox” is “a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that when investigated or explained may prove to be well founded or true.”

When we study the Bible, we come across words that are used in one way, whereas a speaker takes it in a different direction.  For example, the preacher may quote Revelation 2:10 and admonish his audience to “Be faithful.”  His impression is that one must maintain perfection to be faithful.  Is that the biblical definition?  How could it be?  The Bible clearly shows that everyone is a sinner (Romans 3:10, 23).  If a person claims to have no sin, he is a liar (1 John 1:7-10).  If faithfulness equals perfection, Jesus is the only one who reached that goal!   The rest of us are left moaning, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV).

What does it mean to “be faithful”?  How faithful must one be to be faithful?  When the Jerusalem saved refused to preach the gospel to every creature, were they faithful?  If not, why would we clone ourselves after them?  When Peter allowed fear to drive him into hypocrisy, was the fisherman lost (Galatians 2:11-15)?  When some of the saved questioned Peter about going to the home of Cornelius, did they lose their faithfulness (Acts 11:2)?  When some of the saved believed circumcision was essential to obedience for Gentile believers, did they stop being faithful (Acts 15:1, 6)?  Did some of the saved in Sardis, who remained in a dead assembly, continue to be faithful?  How faithful must one be to be faithful?  Some have the idea that one sin will rob you of that title.  Yet, some in that number usually reserve the privilege of naming which sin it is.  It is usually yours, not theirs!  Is their choice really God’s standard for faithfulness?

Peter wrote to the saved and admonished them to add to their faith 1) goodness, 2) knowledge, 3) self-control, 4) perseverance, 5) godliness, 6) brotherly kindness, and 7) love (2 Peter 1:5-7).  Since he told them to add, were they lacking in quality!    If they lacked that quality, were they saved?  Is it possible to be faithful without being perfect?

Paul often admonished the congregation he was writing, “I beseech you” or “I appeal to you.”  Did that mean that saved assembly of people were no longer faithful, or saved?  The answer usually given is, “They needed to repent.”  Granted.  But, were they no longer saved? If “faithful” means you must cross every “t” and dot every “i” before you reach and maintain that category, who maintains its, much less can boast of reaching it?  If “being faithful” means perfection, wouldn’t the one demanding it from the pulpit need to reach it prior to expecting it from his audience?  Paul admitted he wasn’t sinless, yet he corrected Peter!  Can one sinner who isn’t perfect, correct another because he isn’t either?  Is one sin big and another little?

If one may be faithful without maintaining perfection, then the expression “Be faithful” does not mean sinless perfection, does it?  Should one repent and ask God to forgive him when he sins?  Peter told Simon to do so (Acts 8:18-24).  Here is one sinner correcting another sinner!  So, there seems to be a contradiction or is it a paradox?

Some solve this by believing a single sin gets you kicked out of the saved kingdom and returned to the lost one.  The only problem is that we are told that these lost ones may escape from the kingdom of darkness by getting back into the body of Christ through a different way than the one they used when they first got in.  Baptism was their entrance into the saved the first time, but now, they may “pray through.”  So, according to this belief, God will add you in two different ways to the saved!  Question: if one is no longer a citizen of one kingdom, because his sin causes him to lose his citizenship in it, how does his former classification give him special privileges to enter the saved one which he is no longer a citizen of?  Does one hold two valid passports because he has dual citizenship?  Where was Simon told, “You are no longer a citizen of the saved, but since you once were, you can get back in by praying through, whereas first timers must be immersed in water”?  Peter must have recently repented and gotten back in so he could correct Simon who was out and needed to get back in!  So there seems to be a contradiction, or is it a paradox?

A second view is that the sins of the saved are continually cleansed.  The person repents and asks for God’s forgiveness, but God grace and Jesus’ blood does not hold him accountable.  What is hard for some to swallow is the idea that God offers forgiveness through His grace and Jesus’ blood when we enter that relationship.  Paul tells us we are “dead” to sin (Romans 6:2).  We are no longer subject to the wages of sin (Romans 6:23).  As saints, we are not among those who draw back unto perdition (Hebrews 10:38-39).  God does not count our sins against us but covers us with His Son’s righteousness (Psalm 32:1-2; 2 Corinthians 5:19 TLB; Romans 4:7-8; Revelation 5:9).  Is it possible for some that God added to the saved to be lost?  Yes.  The Hebrew writer points us to some who rejected God’s righteousness and were not renewed or forgiven (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29).   So, there seems to be a contradiction, or is it a paradox?

Which paradox do you believe is “the Good News”?