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Posted by Matt Postiff October 21, 2019 under Theology 

Part 1 can be found here.

Romans 10:3-6 For they [Israel] being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." But the righteousness that is by faith says…

Once again in this text, we see that faith is set over against works as an opposing principle. The law-zealous Jew did not submit to the righteousness of God by belief. Instead, he pursued the righteousness which supposedly is achieved through the works of the law. There is a righteousness that comes from the works of the law, and there is a righteousness that comes by faith. It should be obvious then that works and faith are opposites. Faith is not a work.

What is concerning about the doctrine that "faith is a work" is this: if taken to its logical conclusion in the context of the gospel, the person who believes that doctrine would never be able to say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." That would be, on their view, the same as saying, "Do this one particular good work [faith], and you will be saved." But that is anathema because no good work done by a sinner is the meritorious cause of salvation. The only work that procures salvation is the one that Jesus Christ did. The faith-is-a-work ‘gospel’ is so careful to avoid works that it removes the only God-ordained condition of salvation, namely, faith.

This form of the gospel is certainly not guilty of addition; but it is guilty of subtraction. In it, faith cannot even be an instrumental cause or channel of salvation, as it is presented so often in Scripture to be. That subtraction changes the gospel from the faith-emphasis given in Scripture: Mark 1:15; John 9:35, 9:38, 11:26, Acts 5:14, 9:42, 11:17, 11:21, 13:12, 13:48, 16:31, 22:19, 26:18; Romans 4:24, 10:9, 10:17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jude 5 (and many others).

The historical, orthodox understanding of the gospel is that faith is an integral part of the initiation of salvation. However one describes it (logically preceding regeneration, logically following regeneration, or even chronologically following regeneration and inevitable), it is an essential part of the human response to gospel. The Reformation cry of "salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" is gutted and becomes instead "salvation by grace alone in Christ alone without faith-which-is-a-work." Faith, it seems, may come at some point in the regenerate person’s life, or theoretically it may never be expressed at all. Whatever the case, this is not the gospel of Reformation theology, or covenant theology, or dispensational theology. It is an aberration.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 21, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Twice recently I have heard about those who teach that faith is a work. One variation is simply that: faith is a work, and so we cannot encourage or exhort people to believe. The second variation is: faith is the first work a person does after regeneration.

But is faith really a work? Most Christians rightly balk at that statement because the Bible clearly contrasts faith with works. Note these Bible passages that demonstrate the contrast: Romans 3:27, 4:5, 9:32; Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 3:5; Hebrews 6:1, 11:33; James 2:14-26.

There are several passages that connect faith with works in the sense that faith produces work. This is how we should understand 1 Thessalonians 1:3 which speaks of the “work of faith.” This phrase does not mean “the work which is faith” as if faith is a genitive of apposition. Rather, it means “the work which is produced by faith,” where the genitive “faith” is a genitive of production or producer. The same is true concerning the “work of faith” in 2 Thess. 1:11.

James 2:14-26 speaks of living faith that produces good works. This shows that faith and works are integrally related to one another. But it is obvious that they are in different categories.

Paul offers an extended passage in his explanation of the gospel in Romans 4:1-6 which teaches very carefully the distinction between faith and works. In it, he argues that Abraham was not justified by works, but that he was justified by faith. Obviously faith and works are of different sorts. Works are associated with debt; faith is associated with grace. Righteousness is accounted to someone apart from works (4:6). Therefore, since righteousness is accounted to those who believe (4:3, 5), belief cannot possibly be a work.

Jesus once responded to the question, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" (John 6:28). It is evident to me that his answer set faith against works when he replied, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:29). You don't work the works of God to be saved—instead, you believe in Christ.

Furthermore, I believe that faith is a gift of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 can be understood this way. God grants repentance unto life (Acts 11:18), and he also gives His people to believe in Christ (Philippians 1:29). If faith indeed is a gift, it cannot be a work.

Faith is “exercised” by the person who is being saved. There can be no doubt or argument about that. Without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith in Christ, it is impossible to be saved. We are commanded to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” You might wonder how a dead-in-transgressions sinner can believe. That is a difficult question, mostly resolved by the fact that salvation is a miracle. But what you cannot do is think that the person’s faith is a work that merits God’s grace.

I conclude that whatever faith is and however you might describe it, it is not a work.

References

Article at The Gospel Coalition "Why is Faith Not a Work?"

GotQuestions.org

Part 2 can be found here.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under FBC 

We learned a couple of days ago that our dear friend Mal Borden went to heaven. He is highly esteemed in our assembly although he only ministered among us for about a year. His obit can be found at Christiansen Funeral Home and some of it is reproduced here:

Rev. Malcolm J. Borden, age 87, of Carson City, passed away Thursday, August 8, 2019 at The Laurels of Carson City. The son of Arthur Clifford & Anna Ruth (Courdre) Borden, he was born on December 24, 1931 in Pemberton, New Jersey.

After briefly serving in the U.S. Army as a Chaplain, he earned his Master's degree in Theology from the Dallas Theological Seminary and was a life long pastor and missionary, retiring from the American Missionary Fellowship. He most recently was a member of the First Baptist Church of St. Johns where he taught Sunday School.

On April 2, 1955, in Valley Stream, New York, he married Beverly Ann Williams and together they raised one son and enjoyed 58 years of marriage until Beverly passed away on September 5, 2013.

A loving husband, father and grandfather, Mal loved his Heavenly Father and enjoyed studying God's Word more than anything. He also enjoyed sharing his knowledge of God's Word through teaching and preaching for over 60 years and taught Sunday School until the age of 87. He shared God's love and God's Word with others right up until the point where he physically could not teach any further.

The family wishes to thank all the friends and relatives that have been a part of Mal's ministry these many years. Through your love and support Pastor Mal was able to have an impact on the lives of so many.

He was preceded in death by his wife, Beverly Borden; his parents; a brother, David; and a sister, Miriam.

Surviving are his son and daughter-in-law, Mark J. & Susan K. Borden of Carson City; two grandsons, Matthew Jay Borden and Timothy James Borden; two brothers, Arthur Borden and Paul Borden; and several nieces and nephews.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under Theology 

Over and over through recent years I have heard of the Pentecostal doctrine that tongues are a necessary sign of salvation. This is a false teaching and Christians everywhere should repudiate it.

Tongues are definitely not a work that is required to obtain salvation, because no work can ever earn salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Furthermore, the gift of tongues was never the universal sign of salvation even in churches that had the gift available to them (in the first century AD). Therefore tongues cannot be required of all believers today. Follow that logic: if tongues were not required of all believers in the first century, they certainly are not required of all believers today.

How can we know this? From 1 Corinthians 12:30:

Do all have gifts of healings? [Understood "no" answer.] Do all speak with tongues? [Again, understood "no".] Do all interpret? [Once again, "no."]

In each case, the answer to the rhetorical question is clearly "no"; the questions are actually affirmations of truth. What truth? Not everyone was given the gift of healing or tongues or interpretation! Even in the Corinthian church not all people had the gift of tongues. This is because the Spirit sovereignly gives different gifts to each person according to His own will (1 Cor. 2:11) for the profit of the entire body (1 Cor. 12:7). The whole physical body is not an eye! Otherwise there would be no hearing (1 Cor. 12:17). Likewise, the whole church body does not speak in tongues, for if they did, where would the teaching or administration or exhortation be?

The doctrine that "tongues is a necessary evidence of salvation or baptism in the Spirit" is a false doctrine. And it is not a minor error. This is critical to the doctrine of salvation. What more can be required to obtain salvation than the perfect merit of Jesus Christ? And how could we demand an evidence of salvation that not even the apostle Paul demanded of those in a church who i>did have the gift of tongues among them?

Unfortunately, the false teaching surrounding this has confused a lot of people, and redirected their attention from true evidences of salvation, namely sanctification and obedience.


Posted by Matt Postiff October 4, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts  Evangelism 

Today's question has to do with John 3:5.

Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."

The question has to do with how did Nicodemus understood the references to water and the Spirit. Does water have to do with the physical birthing process? Is the water referring to baptism? Is the Spirit referring to tongues? The question arose in discussions with one who holds charismatic doctrine.

If you read the verse, you will see no mention of baptism and tongues. The verse talks about water and Spirit, not baptism and tongues. Yet, I can imagine where the errant ideas come from:

1. water => supposedly equals baptism

2. Spirit => supposedly equals tongues, to some charismatics, a necessary sign of salvation

I can see how water could be equated with baptism, based on the (then) recent history of John the Baptist doing his baptizing ministry. But neither Jesus nor the New Testament suggests that we must be water-baptized in order to be saved. Consider all Old Testament saints, and the "good" thief on the cross next to Jesus. We are water baptized because we are saved, but not the reverse. That is, the statement "we are saved because of water baptism" is false. The Pentecostal believer will make a lengthy case against us from the text in Acts 2:38, but such has been adequately answered in such places as this article by Professor R. Bruce Compton at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

The second point (Spirit => tongues) is fabricated out of thin air because no place up to this point in Bible history is the Holy Spirit gift of tongues mentioned. The first occurrences is Acts 2, many months after Jesus spoke. There is no way that Nicodemus could have guessed that tongues was the referent of Jesus' words. Tongues were the farthest thing from his mind, and from the mind of our Lord, when He spoke these words.

The truth is that both water and Spirit have Old Testament referents that should have been familiar to Nicodemus. The fact that they were not leads the Lord Jesus to rebuke him for his ignorance (John 3:10). Here it is, with key words bolded:

Ezekiel 36:25-27—"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Water refers to spiritual cleansing from sin. The water of baptism does not wash away sin in any shape, manner, or form. It is merely a symbol of Spirit baptism and of union with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection.

The Spirit refers to a ministry that begins at regeneration and continues throughout the life of the believer. The believer's spiritual life is generated and sustained by the Holy Spirit who dwells in him/her.

Jesus is saying "unless one is born of water [=cleansed from sin and thus forgiven] and the Spirit [regeneration, new life and indwelling], he cannot enter the kingdom of God." This is what Christians call the new birth, or "being born again."

Speaking illustratively now, suppose that you come to the door of the kingdom of Christ in the future (Revelation 20). Jesus will not let you inside unless you have been born of water and the Spirit. If you have not been forgiven and regenerated, you will be turned away to an eternity of condemnation in Hell. That is what He is saying to Nicodemus. You must be born again!

John 3:3—Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Posted by Matt Postiff October 2, 2019 under Church 

A pastor friend sent me this some time back in a picture file. I thought I would put it here in text form, hoping it might exhort others as needed.

  1. Don't attend.
  2. If you do attend, arrive late and leave early.
  3. Visit other churches often.
  4. At every church service, ask yourself, "What do I get out of this?"
  5. Never volunteer for anything. Let the pastor do it.
  6. Gossip.
  7. Be critical of the pastor and the musicians.
  8. Don't give, or wait until the end of the tax year to see if you have any extra money.
  9. Don't talk with others or encourage them.
  10. Don't forgive when someone offends you.
  11. Avoid praying for your church.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)


Posted by Matt Postiff September 18, 2019 under Bible Texts  Sanctification 

After Christ rose from the dead, He met with the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. They had breakfast together, and then Jesus asked Peter:

Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" (John 21:15)

What exactly does this mean? As I see it, there are four possibilities:

1. "Do you love me more than you love these fish/nets/fishing?" That seems a bit insulting—of course Peter loves the Lord more than he loves fish and fishing. After all, he did leave fishing behind years earlier to follow the Lord.

2. Some have suggested the question is "Do you love me more than you love these other disciples?" This doesn’t seem much better than the first option. The issue is not whether Peter loves the other disciples. Nothing in the context indicates a difficulty in that area. The question has to do with whether Peter loves the Lord, not the disciples.

3. Instead, the question could refer comparatively to the love of the other disciples: "Do you love me more than these other disciples love me?" I shy away from this interpretation because I hesitate to think the Lord would be looking for comparative statements between disciples as to their love for him.

4. But there is a twist on this "comparative" interpretation that I think fits better. Peter himself had professed to be more reliable in following Christ than all the others (Matt. 26:33, Mark 14:29). Even if the others fell away, Peter asserted, he would never do so. The Lord is not asking Peter if Peter loves Jesus more than the other disciples, as if Peter is better than them. He is asking if Peter’s earlier profession to be more loyal is in fact true. Read the question with this emphasis: "Do you love me more than these others, as you professed previously?" Peter has to answer truthfully that he does love the Lord, while recognizing in humility that he was no better than the other disciples because he too had failed. The point is that Peter should humbly acknowledge that he does not in fact love the Lord more than the other disciples. Peter's initial "yes" conveys the point that he "gets it."

In the end, what matters is that we love Jesus more than anything else in our own lives. We are called to the love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We are not to elevate ourselves above our neighbors in our own estimation.


Posted by Matt Postiff August 30, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts  Apologetics  Evangelism 

Some time ago we prepared a quick guide on some topics for witnessing to people who hold different belief systems. This can be greatly improved, I'm sure, but it is offered "as is" and will hopefully be a help to you. The image below is a preview; if you click it, the PDF will download.

Please contact us if you want to suggest additions or corrections. Thank you!


Posted by Matt Postiff August 30, 2019 under Sanctification 

Today's tweet: In Luke 18:9, Jesus spoke about people who think that they are righteous, and despise others. Obviously, part of the point is that if you despise others, you are NOT righteous.

Do you despise anyone?

Since I have more space here, let me expand on that: Do you despise a family member? A spouse? (As incredible as that might sound, it happens all too often.) A politician? A fellow church member?


Posted by Matt Postiff August 8, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts 

Today's question:

David was a man after God's own heart, right? So can I sin—even in ways like David—and count on God's forgiveness? Aren't I forgiven all my sins: past, present, and future?

This question has recurred over the years of my pastoral ministry. Let me address it in this forum, with the hope that it will be a help to someone out there with this misguided thinking.

First of all, the kind of thinking expressed by the question is not the kind of thinking that a true believer expresses. The true believer understands his sinfulness and hates sin. He wants to depart from evil and do good. He wants to please the Lord. He doesn't want to "count on" the forgiveness of God as a cover for the flesh. He wants to make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts. If he does fall into sin, he repents and feels terrible about it. Whether the person who asked the question truly thought that as a "way of life" kind of thinking, I do not know. But I do know that it is an unbelieving pattern of thinking and indicates a big problem.

Second, the person asking the question doesn't understand that God judged David severely for his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Consider how God evaluated and how God judged David:

2 Samuel 11:27: "But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD."

2 Samuel 12:14: "By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme."

2 Samuel 12:14: "The child also who is born to you shall surely die." That in fact occurred and is recorded in 2 Samuel 12:19.

2 Samuel 12:10: "The sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me."

2 Samuel 12:11: "I will raise up adversity against you from your own house."

And now, observe what history records:

2 Samuel 13: Amnon raped Tamar. Both are children of David. Subsequently, Absalom, another son, murders Amnon.

2 Samuel 15: Absalom rebels against his father and stages a coup. David has to leave Jerusalem and live in the wilderness. As David left the city, Shimei cursed him (16:5-14).

2 Samuel 16:22: "So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel."

2 Samuel 18: Absalom is killed. David's grief now extends to three of his children who have been either killed or raped.

2 Samuel 20: Sheba rebels against David's kingdom.

2 Samuel 24: David fell into pride and took a census of the nation of Israel. God punished him and thousands of his people died. He had that on his conscience all his days.

2 Kings 1: Adonijah presumed to take the kingdom from David and David's appointed successor, Solomon. The priest Abiathar joined him in the rebellion. In chapter 3, Joab was executed and Abiathar exiled.

Hopefully it is obvious that David's sin had far-reaching consequences. If that is the kind of thing you want to go through, be my guest. I trust you will choose the wise route and desire to live righteously before God.


Posted by Matt Postiff July 16, 2019 under Theology  Bible Texts  Apologetics  Gospel 

During an examination of Acts 17:2-3, I thought to connect it back to Isaiah 53 (a significant section of "the scriptures"). Paul was using the Scriptures to demonstrate that the Messiah had to suffer and rise again. Then he connected those prophecies to the actual historical happenings in the life of Jesus of Nazareth to show his audience the need to believe in Christ.

When I took a look at Isaiah, here is what I found (verses quoted from NKJV unless otherwise noted):

Isaiah 52:14 As many were astonished at you; His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more htan the sons of men. Mark 15:19 Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him...Matthew 27:26 and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.
Isaiah 52:15 So shall He sprinkle many nations 1 Peter 1:1-2 elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. (See also Hebrews 10:22.)
Isaiah 52:15 For that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Romans 15:20-21 And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man's foundation, but as it is written: "To whom He was not announced, they shall see; and those who have not heard shall understand." (Rom. 15:21 NKJ)
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? Romans 10:16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?"
Isaiah 53:1 And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? John 12:37-38 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: "Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?"
Isaiah 53:4 Surely He has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows. Matthew 8:16-17 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: "He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses."
Isaiah 53:5 He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. 1 Peter 2:24 Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. 1 Peter 2:25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not his mouth Matthew 26:62-63 And the high priest arose and said to Him, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But Jesus kept silent.
Isaiah 53:9 And He made his grave...with the rich in His death. Matthew 27:57, 60 Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph...and laid [the body of Jesus] in his new tomb which he had hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the door of the tomb...
Isaiah 53:9 because He had done no violence, neither was any deceit in His mouth. 1 Peter 2:22 Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.
Isaiah 53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him. Genesis 3:15 He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.
Isaiah 53:11 By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 "and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
Isaiah 53:12 ...and He was numbered with the transgressors... Luke 22:37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment." (ESV)

The apostle was showing that Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead. Isaiah 53 does this. It focuses on the suffering. But it also teaches the resurrection because it says that God will prolong the days of His servant (Isaiah 53:10), and He will give Him a portion with the great and spoil with the strong (Isaiah 53:12). These things clearly imply that He must come to life again in order to receive these blessings.


Posted by Matt Postiff May 30, 2019 under Theology  Death  Eschatology 

Today's question is an interesting one:

I have a question about names written in the Lamb's Book of Life. It was my understanding that our names are added to the Book of Life when we accept Jesus' atonement for our sin natures (i.e., saved by grace through faith). But some verses seem to indicate that all people are in the Book of Life until they reject that God-designed provision. These texts include Exodus 32:33, Deuteronomy 29:20, Psalm 69:28, Isaiah 48:19, and Revelation 3:5.

The first book is the "book of the living" which is mentioned in Psalm 69:28. It is poetic way of referring to the census or list of all people who are alive at a given time. So, to wipe someone out of that book is a very poetic or euphemistic way of saying that the person would be killed. In other words, they would be "cut off out of the land of the living." Other phrases express the same thing. For example, Deut. 29:20 says that someone will be blotted out from under heaven. This means that they will be killed. Isaiah 48:19 is a bit different because it is used in a corporate way to refer to the offspring of Israel (48:1, 12). The "cutting off" is the same as above, that is, ceasing to exist on the earth. With this background, we can better understand Exodus 32:32-33 in which Moses wishes to die physically. If the Lord will not forgive Israel, Moses prefers death to life. This idea is found mostly in the Old Testament.

The alert reader may remember a similar case in Romans 9:2-3. There, Paul says that he wishes he could be accursed from Christ for his Israelite brothers, that they might come to faith in Messiah. This does not necessarily include the idea of physical death (at least, immediately). The real focus is on spiritual separation from Christ. That is, if it were possible, Paul would trade his salvation for theirs. Paul would have his name erased from the book of the saved so they could get theirs put into that book. And that is the second book, to which we now turn.

The second book is the Lamb's book of life. This is revealed mainly in the New Testament (but see Daniel 12:1) and is not the same as the first book. The book of life is the registry of all the redeemed of all ages, whether in the church age, Tribulation, Kingdom, or Old Testament period.

I'm not big on emphasizing that there is an actual codex/book in heaven, made with paper and cardboard and glued at the spine, that has a huge list of names in it. But in effect we can think of it that way. God knows that list of names intuitively and instantaneously, and the reason for that is that He has graciously chosen to bestow eternal life on each person listed in the book. Passages that refer to this book are Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27, and 22:19.

Of these, several passages offer difficulties to the Bible reader. Revelation 3:5 says, "I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life." I take this not to say that names will be or can be erased, but that they will NOT be erased! Most people read this and believe that there is a possibility of erasure, particularly if you fail to "overcome." I don't read it that way, and I believe that it is an Arminian tendency to emphasize the erasure view. Overcomers (by faith, 1 John 5:4) will never lose their salvation. They will never be erased from the book.

Revelation 13:8 attaches the phrase "from the foundation of the world" to "the lamb that was slain." This is a good interpretation based on the word order, but it can be understood to refer to the names of the people not in the book of life. Revelation 17:8 makes it clear that "from the foundation of the world" is associated with the names not written in the book of life. The point is this: there are names that are NEVER written in the Lamb's book of life. In other words, there are people whose names have never appeared in there. By implication, (1) those names cannot be erased, since they have never been present; and (2) there must be names in the book which have been present since the foundation of the world.

Revelation 22:19 is another passage that indicates the possibility of a name being taken away from the book of life. But there are major textual transmission problems at this point in the Textus Receptus (and thus the English KJV and NKJV translations). The correct text is not "book of life" but "tree of life." (Why? The critical text AND the vast majority of Greek manuscripts say "tree of life.") Reading it as "tree of life" eliminates the only other verse in the Bible that could suggest a person's name can be removed from the book of life. The "removal" is simply a statement of judgment—if you mess with God's book, God will see to it that you have no share in the tree of life = basically heaven.

To summarize: the "erasure" view is that the names of all humans who ever exist are written in the book of life from the start, and names are erased as people die without exercising faith in Christ. One problem with this view is that there is no text that clearly says names WILL be erased. Furthermore, Revelation 17:8 tells us plainly that there are some names which are not written in the book ever. Therefore, we could also call this the "start full" view, but it fails at Revelation 17:8.

Then there is the "start empty" view. It would seem to make more sense to have zero names in the Lamb's book of life at the beginning—because we are all sinners deserving of eternal punishment from birth, our names don't deserve to be there. One's name could be added when one comes to faith in Christ. I think that is a very common understanding. But even that doesn't work, because it seems there are some names that are present in the book from the foundation of the world, and some that are not (see above explanation).

Neither the "start empty" nor the "start full" views of the book of life work.

Think about this very important related issue. Who has the power to put a name in or out of the book of life? If your answer is "people" then you will likely have a start-full or start-empty view. You are reflecting the idea that salvation not only involves a person's participation, but it is ultimately based on that person's choice. If your answer is "God," then you have an entirely different perspective. Then you are saying that salvation is ultimately based on God's choice. The latter better fits the Biblical revelation--God is the author of the book of life.

But since God knows everything and in fact has decreed everything to come to pass as it does, He never has to make edits to His book. Consequently, I understand that names are not ever added or subtracted from the book of life. The names were set down there from before the foundation of the world and that list is fixed and inviolable for all eternity. It is the list of those known as the elect. Some of them have already come to faith, and some shall come in the future, but all will eventually come to faith while they are alive. (I believe that even infants who die in infancy are listed in this book, and God graciously regenerates them so they can partake in the eternal kingdom. But I digress into an area of some debate among theologians.) The impossibility of erasure reflects the doctrine of eternal security. The impossibility of addition means that people who are not elect won't be saved. This may sound harsh, but follow the next paragraphs.

Now, who are the elect? I don't know, and no one but God knows. Well, we can know if someone comes to genuine faith, and we can know about ourselves if we are believers. We do know there those whom God has graciously chosen to bless with salvation because of certain clear texts of the Bible (2 Thess. 2:13, 1 Thess. 1:4, 2 Timothy 2:10, Titus 1:1, and others). But as for the billions of people on the planet, we cannot know who the elect ones are in advance. Consequently, we preach the gospel widely, praying to reach people who will respond. Ultimately we won't know who is elect until after the fact. God knows the elect before the fact.

If there is someone who genuinely wants to get saved, and is afraid they are not elect, I would quickly disabuse them of that thinking by telling them that God commands us to repent and believe the gospel. If you do that, you are saved, and thus prove that you were listed in the book. From the human perspective, since we don't and can't know who is "in" and who is "out," we should not worry about who is in the book, and instead focus on obeying God, and everything will be fine. This goes for evangelism too. Our job is not to figure out if someone is elect. Our job is to proclaim the gospel.

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