LIVING STREAM MINISTRIES
'Will the Real Gospel of Eternal Life Please Stand Up!'
1853 W. Ball Rd.
P.O. Box 2121
Anaheim, Ca 92814
I entitle this letter: 'Will the Real Gospel of Eternal Life Please Stand Up!'
Everywhere I go to church I hear contradictory accounts of what the way is to heaven, and your organization seems to be no different. I hope I'm wrong. At first I thought you were indeed different - that you were consistent and even backed your theology of the gospel up with good Bible verses - although no attempt was made to show that what those verses said, word for word, actually supported your statement of how to go to heaven. But after reading brochure #1, ('Knowing That You Are Saved), which said that "once a person believes in the heavenly Father and believes into the name of the Son of God (the Lord Jesus Christ), he has eternal life...", I picked up brochure #2, ('The Assurance, Security and Joy of Salvation'). This brochure states that there are two steps to salvation: "whoever believes that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and confesses with his mouth that Jesus is Lord is saved." Here there are 2 steps: belief and confession, clearly an additional step from brochure #1.
Now faith, by dictionary definition, and by the Scriptures which you used in brochure #1, is defined as a simple mental assent to what has been testified to - in this case by God Himself. And that testimony presented in I John 5:9-13 and as explained in brochure #1 is that eternal life is solely through faith in God's Son. There is no mention of anything else which is required of an individual to attain eternal life but the moment of believing in Christ as Savior. But brochure #2 demands public confession in addition to the faith!
Then, imagine my next reaction when I read brochure #3, ('The Mystery of Human Life'):
FOUR STEPS TO HEAVEN!!!
"1. TURN YOUR HEART TO GOD - REPENT
2. BELIEVE - RECEIVE
3. CONFESS - CALL
4. BE BAPTIZED - TESTIFY"
Actually, it appears there are 8 steps here if one were to read the brochure carefully.
I have a number of questions:
So which brochure is correct?
So which Bible passage is correct?
And if one passage is incorrect, then is the Bible God's Word at all - having errors in it and being so open to different interpretations by people even within the same church?
And I have some observation type questions also:
I thought that the word repent relative to salvation simply meant to change your mind about not believing and believe in Jesus Christ, (Acts 19:4; 16:38 & 44 & 10:43).
I thought that confession of Jesus as Lord was simply an expression of one's already saved condition as believing has already resulted in justification as stated in Ro 10:10. Thus such confession is an affirmation of one's already saved condition - so that one could indeed conclude that an individual is truly saved if such public testimony is made. But an individual is nevertheless saved without the public confession since the phrase in which the word confession occurs is in a construction which indicates uncertainty: 'maybe you will and maybe you won't confess, but nevertheless you will be saved having believed in your heart'. On the other hand, if confession is required then dozens of salvation passages from Genesis 15:6 to Rev 22:14 would have a serious omission - especially our Lord's testimony to Nicodemus, (Jn 3:16), which mentions nothing about a requirement of public testimony in order to be saved, or anything else but a moment of faith:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."
Further thoughts and observations:
I also thought that the word "receiving" relative to salvation is defined in God's Word as believing:
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even [the Gk word kai which signifies 'that is to say'] to those who believe in His name," (Jn 1:12).
I thought calling on the name of the Lord was yet another way of saying believe on the Lord since calling on the name of God is not a calling out with one's voice but simply another way of saying that one relies on, (calls on the name of, the reputation and capacity of), God alone to save them. This is explained in Ro 10:14:
"How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in?"
I thought that Holy Spirit Baptism, not to be confused with water baptism which one does later after conversion, was what God does at the moment of believing and not something that man is required to do to be saved. Otherwise over 400 salvation passages which make no mention of water baptism would be wrong.
Compare Eph 1:13-14:
"And you also were included in Christ [i.e., saved unto eternal life] when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance [of eternal life] until the redemption of those who are God's possession - the the praise of is glory."
And compare 1 Cor 12:14:
"For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink."
And I thought that the water baptism in Mark 16:16, like confession, is simply an expression of one's already saved condition because so many salvation passages make no mention of any requirement of man to do anything but believe. Simply stated, one can say that just as one can believe and be baptized and be saved, the faith being the only essential requirement, so one can go to church and trust in Christ as Savior and be saved, the going to church having nothing to do with the attaining of eternal life, but merely a non-essential part of what a man must do in order to be saved. Consider the thief on the cross who had no chance to do anything but believe.
And finally I thought that Jn 3:5 refers to this same Holy Spirit Baptism and not water baptism because a careful examination of the original text says no.
(v. 5) "Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit."
[The original text for the first phrase as the apostle John wrote it and under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, (2 Tim 3:16), looks like this transliterated into English:
" ean-me tis ........gennthe ex ..hudatos"
"unless ...anyone be born out of water"
"born out of water" = "gennthe ex hudatos")
[Compare Titus 3:5 from the New Testament perspective]:
"ouk ex .......ergon ton ....en dikaiosuen
"not .out of works which in righteousness
on ......epoiesamen emeis alla
which practiced ....we ....but
kata ...............ton autou eleon ...esosen ....nmas according to .His ...........mercy He saved us
dia .........loutrou paliggenesias
through washing again birth (regeneration)
kai ...anakainoseos pneumatos agiou"
and ...renewing ......of Spirit .....Holy"
So, being born again is not achieved by practicing good works. Salvation, on the contrary, is an act of mercy by God upon the individual as it says above. Titus 3:5 parallels Jn 3:5 in that it describes being born again as a washing again birth in the realm of the Holy Spirit. This washing again birth, i.e., regeneration is exclusively the renewing process of the Holy Spirit. So the exclusive connection between washing & water, the Holy Spirit and regeneration is repeatedly made in God's Word. This teaching is also substantiated in the Old Testament, especially in the passage which Jesus was referring to in His conversation with Nicodemus: The scripture which Nicodemus was sure to be familiar with relative to the phrase "born of water" is about how God will sprinkle clean water on the Jewish people...cleansing them from all sin...giving them a new heart...putting a new spirit in them...by putting His Spirit in them. (Ez 36:24-27). This indeed is being born again indicated right there in Old Testament:
(v. 24) "For I will take you [Israel] out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.
(v. 25) I [God] will sprinkle clean water [the Holy Spirit, (v. 27)] on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols."
["water" - water here is the symbol for God the Holy Spirit, cp Jn 7:38-39a]:
[Compare Jn 7:38-39a]:
(v. 38) "Whoever believes in Me [Jesus Christ] as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.
(v. 39a) By this He meant the Spirit..."
[Compare the O.T. passages our Lord was referring to: Isa 43:20; 44:3; 55:1 & especially 12:2-3]:
(v. 2) "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation.
(v. 3) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation."
[Ez 36:24-27 cont.]:
(v. 25) "I [God] will sprinkle clean water [the Holy Spirit] on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols."
[And only the Holy Spirit can do this; and this is verified in the next two verses in Ezekiel]:
(v. 26) I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; [a born again spirit, (Jn 3:5)] I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
(v. 27) And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws."
So Jesus says that a man must be born spiritually - born again out of the renewing of the Holy Spirit and out of the spiritual realm - otherwise he cannot enter the kingdom of God, of heaven.
Because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, (Adam in particular as the federal head and representative of the human race), we are all born in sin and spiritually dead, (cp 1 Cor 15:21-22; Eph 2:1; Ro 5:12):
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned."
When Adam sinned as the representative of all men, then all men became guilty of sin and are consequently born with a sin nature, (Ro 7:18-24).
So Jesus says that a man must be born spiritually - born again - otherwise he cannot enter the kingdom of God, of heaven.
Objectors maintain that "born out of water" is a figure of speech referring to water baptism but this is impossible for a number of reasons:
1) Since our Lord was speaking to Nicodemus who was a Jew under the Mosaic Law system water baptism per say was not in view since only proslytes, i.e., gentile converts to Judaism were immersed into water as an identification with the nation Israel and not Jews in general, and especially not to be saved.
2) If there is only one baptism which saves unto eternal life, (cp Eph 4:4-5 + 1:13-14),
and if Holy Spirit baptism actually identifies the believer with Christ - into His Body the Church, (cp Ro 6:3 + 1 Cor 12:13) and seals him to eternal life, (cp Eph 1:13-14),
then the baptism which saves is Holy Spirit baptism and not water baptism.
Water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism cannot both save since only one is referred to as essential in Eph 4:4-5. So 'born of water' cannot refer to water baptism in any case.
[Jn 3:5 cont.]:
(v. 5) Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and spirit."
" ean-me tis ........gennthe ex ..hudatos
"unless ...anyone be born out of water"
"and [out of the realm of the] spirit" =
refers to this whole process of God sprinkling "clean water" on Nicodemus and cleansing him of all idols and putting a new spirit in him and giving him a "heart of flesh" replacing his "heart of stone" and putting His Spirit in him and moving him to follow God's decrees. And all of this is done NOT in the physical realm but out of the realm of the spiritual:
"kai [ex] pneumatos" = "out of the realm of the spiritual"
And to clarify this our Lord immediately makes this distinction between the spiritual realm of being born again and the physical realm of physical birth:
(v. 5) Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and by that I mean the Spirit.
(v. 6) Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit' ".
[So it requires another birth, one which is out of the renewing work of the Holy Spirit and out of the realm of the spiritual, to become born again. This birth is brought about only by the Spirit, God the Holy Spirit.
In Jn 3:6, Jesus reiterates His answer to Nicodemus' question of "How can a man be born when he is old." so that Nicodemus will not miss it:
"Flesh gives birth to flesh [the physical birth] but the Spirit [God the Holy Spirit] gives birth to [your dead] spirit in the spiritual realm." There are two distinct realms: One is fallen man, the flesh, and the other is of God, the Spirit. A fallen man cannot regenerate himself, (be reborn), he needs a divine operation in a spiritual realm. Only God the Holy Spirit can regenerate a dead human spirit. Man can do nothing, the words are clear.