Gnosticsm & the Proclamation of Christianity with special reference to John’s Gospel

By Donald M. Hancock FRCS Ed


Welcome, Leila, to a great Gospel and a 1st class commentary by John Marsh. I read Marsh for the first time after you told me about it. Congrats to your teacher for this choice.

Being ‘a child of your times’ [1] you will approach this tough A level assignment with many questions and arguments, so go on asking and arguing. You are a good arguer, as some of us know to our cost!

Try to work out the answers by thinking through the problem, and reading to collect the facts, and discussing the question with other people to see if they have any further ideas which may help you get a better answer. Remember the best arguments are heard when quiet but persistent methodical reasoning is used as the corner stone of debate. Try and put forward clear reasons for whatever point you are making. Don’t let any one steam you up! At all costs keep your temper and make sure your sweet enquiring nature is evident to everybody.

I know that you enjoy a fight but keep this part of your nature for the hockey field. Never, never allow things to turn into wrangling, shouting and horrid clash of unreasoned opinions. You do not want the debate to turn into squabbling or falling out. [2] It does not need to if you keep cool with a clear demonstration of your reasons. If your school has a Debating Society, you should join it – now. You are good at this sort of thing and if you make the most of your opportunities you will excel at it.

There is one kind of question you should try to avoid. This is the leading question, which is worded in such a way that the answer hoped for will be reached in trying to deal with it. This is the sort of question which any decent scientist will do his utmost to avoid as it leads to flawed work and a biased answer.

With this type of leading question, the answer you want as often as not determines the answer you get even though this answer is not true. So it is really best to avoid this type of question. Some barristers and most reporters from the less reputable tabloids are experts in biased questions during hot pursuit of their victims. Barristers are not allowed to get away with this when examining defendants in court.

In any masterpiece (and St. John’s Gospel is a masterpiece), one will find many difficulties and many questions, but try to find them in the right places. It is such a waste of effort to look for them in the wrong places. Marsh’s commentary will help you to find the right places. Your teachers and your classmates can also be a great help if approached with respect.

‘Only connect.’ [3] was Forster’s advice. It is of course hard work but keep at it and it will be very rewarding, not so much for A levels, which you will pass well – I am sure — but for enlarging your mind and getting those brain cells better linked up. Now’s the time to cash in on making connections which the young brain finds easy. It will not always be easy, believe me, struggling as I am not to lose them too fast!


Let’s list some of the ‘uncertainties’ to start with :

Atonement : How can we believe that the death of one man, Jesus of Nazareth, on a Roman crucifix- put away a world’s sins? How can that death have any bearing on God’s forgiveness of our sins today?

Resurrection : How can we believe that Jesus rose physically from the dead? Is not a theory of resuscitation by His disciples after severe trauma, or the stealing of the body, or ‘just one of those myths’ that proliferate in ancient religions, easier to credit than the Christian doctrine of resurrection?

Virgin birth : How can we believe in the virgin birth as described in the Bible?

But I have not finished !

What about the miracles? How can one believe that He walked on the water, fed 5,000, raised the dead?

Yet these are not the real difficulties, the big uncertainties. The supreme mystery that the Gospels confront us with does not lie here. Neither does it lie in the Good Friday message of Atonement, or in the Easter message of Resurrection. The supreme mystery is the Christmas message of the Incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made Man and that He became human without loss of deity, i.e. Jesus Christ was as truly and fully divine as He was human.

C.S. Lewis answers to some of these questions in a small but excellent and very readable book : "Mere Christianity", (Collins fontana books, 1966). It cost Graham 3 shillings and 6 pence when he was still at school. You will also like "Surprised by Joy", about his progress from Atheism to Christianity, see [49].

Also, Helmut Thielke (a remarkable German theologian) in "I believe – the Christian’s Creed", Collins, 1969, gives an lively readable review of this subject.

My Purpose : Summarise what Gnosticsm is and then show the differences from Christianity [4], as proclaimed in the New Testament with special reference to John’s Gospel.

John’s Purpose : 4th Gospel written so that ‘you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ [5]

Gnosticsm [6] : A complex religious movement which in its Christian form came into prominence in the 2nd century, having originated in pagan cults and trends of thought. By the end of the 2nd cent the Gnostics had mostly formed separate sects. Different forms were developed by particular teachers, such as Valentinus [7], Basilides, and Marcion [8], but some features are common to the movement as a whole.

A central importance was attached to ‘gnosis’: the supposedly revealed knowledge of God and of the origin and destiny of mankind, by means of which the spiritual element in man could receive redemption. The source of this special gnosis was held to be either the Apostles, from whom it was derived by secret tradition, or a direct revelation given to the founder of the sect.

Gnostic teaching distinguished between the Demiurge or ‘creator god’ and the supreme, remote, and unknowable Divine Being. From the latter the Demiurge was derived by a series of emanations or ‘aeons’, the youngest of which, according to Valentinus, was Sophia who ‘fell’ when she conceived the Demiurge. He was the God of the Old Testament (OT), the immediate source of creation and he ruled the world, which was therefore imperfect and antagonistic to what was truly spiritual.

Redemption was effected by the aeon Christ, who united himself with the man Jesus to bring some special men the saving knowledge (‘gnosis’) of their origin and destiny. These special ones are the spiritual men or pneumatics who had been given a seed of divine spiritual substance, a spark of heavenly light imprisoned in a material body. Valentinus taught that these are the men who, through their intuitive gnosis, enter ‘the pleuroma’; other Christians (called psychics) by faith and good works attain only to the middle realm of the Demiurge; the rest of mankind is given over to eternal perdition.

Most Gnostics taught that the function of the aeon Christ was to come as the emissary of the supreme unknowable God, bringing ‘gnosis’. As a Divine Being he neither assumed a human body nor was crucified, but either inhabited a human being, Jesus, or assumed a phantasmal human appearance. Some early Gnostic writers have even suggested that he was laughing in heaven as he observed the scene of this deception at the crucifixion.

In summary Gnosticsm is distinguished by the conviction that the material order, the material world, of which we are a part, is evil and separated off from a higher order; entirely spiritual, having no contact with matter [9]. Emancipation from evil can only come about through Gnosis.

"True Gnosis (or Knowledge) could lead to the deification of certain members 0f human kind": This was the aim of Hermetist religious and mystical writings [10]. It is unbiblical and of course completely unacceptable for Christians.

It differs from Humanism which rejects all religion in favour of a belief in the advancement of humanity by its own efforts (Collins Dictionary). ‘Humanism is humanity sufficient for itself‘, i.e., humanity is its own god.

The vision of Communism is, at first magnificent. Its blessings appear to be dazzling but have never materialised. Bluntly it doesn’t work as promised. Instead it becomes a despotic tyranny when put into practise. Communism has universal ideals. "All men are equal", "Equal Distribution of Income", "From he who has, to him that has not". But in practice these aims need a strong ‘Secret Police’ for their enforcement.

Gnosticsm differs as it is not universal but selective. Only certain individuals can attain to its ideals.

Gnosticsm has often been seen as a ‘bizarre playing with words and ideas’. However when examined more thoroughly it is found to be a serious attempt to resolve real problems: the nature and destiny of the human race, the problem of evil, and the human predicament. It has had an influence on modern literature (e.g. Blake and Yeats), Theosophy (Blavatsky), Anthroposophy (Rudolph Steiner) and the psychologist C.G. Jung. Manicheism, a later offshoot, was for a time a world religion, reaching as far as China.

Until recently the anti-Gnostic writers were the main source of information. The Nag Hammadi Coptic texts were found in Upper Egypt in 1945-1946. Over 40 treatises were found, previously unknown. These have given a more sympathetic view of the Gnostics. They vary widely in date and style, some dating from the 2nd century. Most of the items are superficially Christian overlaid by strong Gnostic tendencies.

Gnosticsm is regarded as an essentially syncretistic [11] religious movement older than, and originally separate from, Christianity. It readily accepted some Christian ideas, as those beliefs became popular with the wider public. But these ideas had to be altered, sometimes radically, in order to fit into their system.

There can be no question on the one hand of the significance of New Testament (NT) influence on Gnosticsm. On the other, there is now little doubt that John and the writers of the 4th Gospel were influenced by Gnostic ideas but the message of this Gospel is a far different thing.

The purpose of the Gnostic teachers was to motivate the chosen ones through a form of ‘escapism’. The initiate was shown the means of escape: from the bondage of matter, from the rule of malevolent powers, and given the opportunity of attaining immortality if he was fit for Higher Thought [12].

Dodd continues: "Gnosis is not so much knowledge of God, in any profoundly religious [13] sense, as knowledge about the structure of the higher world and the way to get there and this can only be known by revelation usually conveyed in the form of myths." Various metaphysical [14] concepts are often personified in myths [15].

"Gnosticsm seriously claims to secure access to a realm of being altogether other than the world of sensible experience. It does this through communication of detailed knowledge of that ‘other world’ through myths, rather than any properly religious attitude (Dodd)." [16]

Gnostic Redemption

The idea of Gnostic Redemption may at first seem opposed to Dodd’s opinion. Thus, Gnosis can have a liberating or redeeming effect as its aim is to release the spiritual element in some men from their bondage to matter. The man [17] who has Gnosis is therefore designated a redeemed man, redeemed from ignorance, the antithesis (direct opposite) of Gnosis. This knowledge is primarily religious since it rests, not on one man’s investigation but on heavenly mediation and revelation to the select few.

However this is merely putting a religious gloss on the essential ‘detailed knowledge’ of the higher world and how to get there.

This idea of redemption is far removed from that proclaimed in the Christian Gospel.

Faith in a Christian Redeemer is an irrelevance when applied to Gnostic redemption because faith, in a Christian context, carries the meaning of belief in, trust in and loyalty to the person of Jesus Christ, whilst Gnosis exists on faith in a system.

Webster’s 7th Collegiate Dictionary, 1971, gives this definition of Gnosis : "immediate knowledge of spiritual truth held by ancient Gnostics to be attainable through faith alone." But this is not faith in a person, nor in this context, faith in a Redeemer, but faith in the gnostic system of knowledge.

There is no place for christian redemption in gnosticsm of any form.

The Gnostic is convinced that redemption comes from Gnosis. Dodd points out that Marcus the Valentinian taught "that perfect redemption is simply knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness; for defect and suffering or passion have come about through ignorance. The whole state of affairs produced by ignorance is dissolved by knowledge, so knowledge is redemption of the inner man. Knowledge is as it were the dwelling of the spirit. For the spiritual man is redeemed through knowledge."

The giver of knowledge is a Gnostic redeemer.

Dodd continues: "What then is this knowledge? The Gospel, says Basilides, is knowledge of supramundane things. It is in fact precisely the knowledge in the Gnostic myths – knowledge of the nature and origin of the heavenly aeons, of the nature of this world and its rulers, of the nature and origin of man. Assuming that you are the kind of person capable of receiving this knowledge, and of ascending to the higher world, you will be enabled by receiving it to separate your true self from the material order to which it is essentially alien, to find your way through the barriers which divide this world from the other. The knowledge you possess will arm you against the malign powers that would hinder you on your way. … In a word, knowledge is power. He who knows what he is and whence he is, can find the way home." He who knows the nature of the world and its governing powers can overcome these powers. Hence he who brings this knowledge to men is their Saviour.

Gnosticsm is a belief that certain people only are capable of receiving gnosis and so able to ascend to the highest realms. Christians can get to the middle realm. The rest are consigned to perdition.

This is poles apart from the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Christian Saviour and Redeemer.

Some Gnostics also think of Jesus as their redeemer. The Gnostic view is illustrated in this Naassene hymn where Jesus is made to say: "Behold, O Father! This quest of evils upon earth is all astray from Thy spirit. But it seeks to escape bitter chaos, and knows not how it shall come through. Send me therefore, Father. Having the seals I will descend. I will traverse all aeons, and I will open up all mysteries, and I will reveal the forms of gods. And having summoned Knowledge I will communicate the secrets of the holy way."

In this way Christ is made to appear in the guise of a Gnostic redeemer, a revealer of the secrets of the holy way through ‘Knowledge’ of aeons and all mysteries.

But it is clear that whatever john meant by the knowledge which is eternal life through christ, this is not what he meant.

Dodd and Marsh on Gnosticsm

Dodd states: "The significance of the parallels and contrasts between the Gnostics and John is this : Both John and the Gnostics followed a deeply grounded tendency, which sought redemption through knowledge. He and they believed that such knowledge was given in the Christian revelation. The different views they give of what the Christian knowledge is, make Johannine Christianity, in spite of the common background, an entirely different thing from semi-Christian or near-Christian gnosticsm."

Dodd [17] comes to this conclusion after a very sympathetic and detailed review of Gnosticsm (p. 114).

Marsh, [18] after a careful study of Gnosticsm, concludes that the fourth Gospel was deeply affected by Gnostic ideas, but there is a ‘decisive difference‘: ‘The Gnostic claims that what saves is knowledge, knowledge of the origins of the world, of man in the world and of the way for man to escape from the world to union with God.

But for Christians the knowledge that will save is knowledge of the one true God, and of Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Deliverance comes not when a man learns the secrets of the universe and the way through and beyond it; it comes when the Son, given to the world by the Father, gives Himself in death for the life of the world.

John, no less than Paul, is concerned to preach "Christ and Him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2: 2.), even if John’s proclamation be set in a quasi-Gnostic key. The knowledge that John would bring to men is not pure intellection; it is a response of mind and heart and will to an acceptance of and trust in what God has done, in the gratitude of obedience and the devotion of love.’

Faith in a Christian Redeemer
Job 19: 25 (AV); John 6: 28, 29 (RSV)

First we must know what faith is. It can be defined as:

  1. Loyalty to a person.
  2. Belief and trust in and loyalty to God.
  3. Firm belief, complete confidence in something for which there is no proof.
  4. Something which is believed with complete conviction. [20]

There is so much misconception about faith and so much more to say about it in order to clarify this problem that I will limit myself here to four views from the experts:

1. Augustine on the subject of ‘Faith, Belief and Understanding‘: "Faith opens the door to understanding. If thou hast not understood, believe, for understanding is the reward of believing. Then seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand." (Homilies in Joan, 29:6.)

2. Pascal also deals with this problem towards the end of ‘the Wager’ [21]. "If you want to believe, but after a hard struggle find you cannot, but still want to, you should start behaving just as if you did believe." Since he was a Catholic he advised going to church, having masses said, taking holy water and so on. "… That will make you believe quite naturally, and will make you more docile." "But that is what is what I am afraid of", you reply!

Pascal: "But what have you to lose? You will be faithful."

"It is the heart which perceives God and not the reason. That is what faith is: God perceived by the heart but not by the reason." The search for intellectual truth is very fine and essential but it is not enough. "The heart knows its reasons of which the reason knows nothing". It is important to remember that Pascal the discoverer of the vacuum, who said this, was a first rate scientist.

"Pascal uses every device to demonstrate that man is in a state of desperate insecurity. At the same time he never ceases to insist that a remedy is available if man will seek it outside himself and his feeble reason." [22] If only man would turn to the remedy that God has provided in Christ, who said, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). It is very worthwhile having a look at Krailsheimer’s book on ‘Pascal’. [22].

3. Hammond and Wright: "Faith in man is the complement of grace in God. God’s approach to man is in ‘grace’ and man’s response to God is by ‘faith’. God in grace gives man a revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ , and the only adequate response man can offer is confident trust i.e. faith. Faith is the instrument by which the divine revelation and all the blessings inherent in Him are grasped." [23]

4. Kierkegaard [24]: Faith is the highest good for the Christian, the most beautiful, the most precious, the richest of all blessings, not to be compared with anything else, not replaceable by anything else. But faith cannot be had by wishing for it. It can only be had by willing it. Faith is not something external that one can wish. No! It is something internal, which one can only will. For faith is the gift of God to each one of us. It is inherent and everyone can exercise it if they will to do so. If it is not exercised it tends to wither. Looked at in another way, faith is the unfailing good, which can only be had by being constantly acquired, and only be acquired by being constantly developed. If a man does not have faith, it means that he did not will it.

Faith possesses the only power that can triumph over the future. The future remains inscrutable, and always in some sense, threatening. We frequently see those who in life conquered in every battle, but when it was a future enemy they had to deal with they became powerless, their arms paralysed. Previously they would challenge the whole world to battle, but now they had met an enemy, a vague figure, who was able to terrify them. The fight with the present at which they had excelled seemed now to them as a childish game in comparison with this dreadful fight with the future, which no man saw. When a man strives with the future, then he learns that however strong he is compared with the rest, there is one enemy who is stronger, that is himself; one enemy that he cannot conquer by himself, that is, himself.

How should we then go to meet the future?

When a sailor is out at sea, when everything is changing about him, when the waves are constantly born and die, then he does not stare down into the depths for this is constantly changing. No! He looks up at the stars: and why? Because they are faithful; as they stand now they stood similarly for the patriarchs and will stand for the future so that we are able to plot our course by them. By what means does the sailor conquer the changing conditions? Through the eternal. Through the eternal can one conquer the future because the eternal is the foundation of the future.

What then is the eternal power in man? It is faith.

What is the expectation of faith ? Victory, or as we are taught in the Scriptures it is ‘that all things must work together for good to them who love God‘. (Romans 8: 28)

The expectation of the future which expects victory has indeed conquered the future. So the believer is already done with the future before he begins on the present [25].

Faith will triumph over the future whatever the future will bring, for the expectation of faith is victory. How different is this from the stifled shriek of anguish in your heart as you contemplate the future loss; the shriek stifled, so that it may not be disturbing to others. How much better to say: "There is an expectation which all the world cannot take from me; it is the expectation of faith, and this is victory. I am not deceived; for what the world seemed to promise me, that promise I did not believe it would keep; my expectation was not in the world but in God. This expectation is not deceived, for even now I feel its victory more joyfully still triumphing over all the pain of loss and the stifled shriek. If I lost this expectation, then would everything be lost. But now I have still conquered through my expectation, for my expectation through faith and trust in God is victory.

(I am sorry for the length of this section on Kierkegaard which may be due to my poor understanding of his work. None the less, much that I do understand has universal significance and may stimulate your further reading of this great author.)

Christian Salvation and Redemption
John 10: 9 (RSV); Luke 19: 10 (AV)

Christian Salvation [26]: God’s way of delivering us from sin by Redemption and Salvation through Jesus Christ.

Christian Redemption: Deliverance from the power of Sin through the sufferings and death of Christ the Redeemer.

"God saves men by His sovereign grace through the Atonement [27] of Jesus. We have to work out that salvation in practical living." [28] It is not as if you can ‘work your own salvation’ by doing good, but you work it out, i.e. work out the salvation that you have been given by Christ’s death for you. So Salvation is not dependent in any way upon our good works. It is a wondrous gift of God to everyone who believes in Him. It is all of God and none of us; a gift of free unmerited grace: "Salvation is God’s thought, not man’s".

When we preach salvation, we are not proclaiming how man can be saved from Hell and be made moral and pure; we are conveying the Good News about God [29] and what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.

The Good News in the Gospels
John 10: 10 (AV)

The Gospels proclaim the good news of Salvation in Jesus Christ. John repeatedly gets back to the great gift of salvation and in John 3: 16 and 17 he summarises the basics: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (NIV). Jesus Christ is not the only name of the personal Saviour who made the way for every man to abundant life through a personal relationship with Him. He is also the name for God and man one.

A Gnostic says, I will work from the divine standpoint and pay no attention to the human. But you cannot do this ; God Himself could not do it. He had to take upon Himself "the likeness of human flesh" (Romans 8: 3). There must be the right alloy. Pure gold is too soft to use as a coin, and the pure gold of the Divine is no good in human affairs; there must be the alloy mixed with it, and the alloy is not sin. Sin according to the Bible, is something that has no right in human nature at all; it is abnormal and wrong. Human nature is earthly, it is squalid, but it is not bad. The thing in human nature that is bad is the result of a wrong relationship set up between the man God created, and the being God created who became the devil. The Devil struck a deal with man who sold himself to the devil, and in return became absolute boss over himself. This wrong relationship is called sin. (Adapted from OC in [42] p.60.)

Marsh [30] gives a wonderful exposition of John 3:16. I shall try to summarise this.

  1. God so loved the world. This precludes the Christian from the Gnostic thinking of God’s love as some metaphysical attribute of a distant divine being, only to be contemplated by the enlightened few. God’s love embraces the world so it cannot be confined to the spiritual elite, or a chosen people, or sect or race or nation.
  2. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. God loved all there was and gave all He had. So the splendid objective of the love of God can be stated only in universal terms that:
  3. Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Eternal life and perish are absolute alternatives but, of these two options, the second seems surely a certainty. The world, into which the Son was sent, was and remains, ‘in bondage to decay’ [31]. "Even if everything in this world is uncertain, death at least is certain." [32] But Christ came to change this certainty – ‘perish’ – into ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God.’ (See [29].) "Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the Devil – and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2: 14,15)

The question in c. is whether in response to God’s love, man will embrace the life that is offered, or reject it. We learn, at the foot of the Cross and from the Resurrection, about the victorious purpose of God’s love – the gift of life in the midst of a dying world. This was the outcome of God’s gift of His Son to the world. Man has now the possibility of two destinies: life or death. Only God has life in Himself. His gift of life to men is thus their own hope of attaining it, and to attain it is to share the fullness of life itself, in never-failing abundance. "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10: 10). This means abundant life, as it should be lived in this world, as well as life in the inconceivable sheer exuberance of the next. If we reject God’s gift, we exclude ourselves, in this life and the next, from this abundant life and remain outside His life where everything ends in death. The alternatives are indeed absolute.

Marsh continues and asks: How can death result from a choice set before men by the God whose love gave His only begotten Son in order that all who turn to Him and believe in Him might live?

John’s answer to this is found in the next verse 17: "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world." Condemnation did not follow from God’s action. It was God who in His love to the world gave His Son to save the world, not to condemn it. The man who believes is not condemned to perish. The man who does not believe is not condemned by God to death subsequent to his unbelief; for God has indeed offered him life. The perishing of the unbeliever is not a punishment for unbelief inflicted by a ruthless God; it is the self-determined end of the man who has decided to be his own God, and so has turned his back on God in unbelief. In turning against God, the true source of abundant life, he chooses the only alternative – Death.

The Jewish doctrine of Judgement thought of all such final rewards as being distributed at a ‘last day’; and thus it was bound to appear that death was the penalty inflicted by God for unbelief. But John told his readers, as Jesus told Nicodemus that the real situation is that since God has offered all men the gift of life freely, judgement takes place within history now. Not that God condemns any man to perish, but that some men so condemn themselves. "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world." This is a radical re-writing of the Jewish doctrine of Judgement. Christian views tended to distance themselves from traditional Jewish apocalyptic, with judgement for the Christian being seen almost exclusively in individual rather than national terms. It is ‘Realized Eschatology’ [33] with Jesus bringing the dawning of the Kingdom of God. [34]

Christian Redemption Again: Deliverance from the power of sin through the sufferings and death of Christ the Redeemer
Titus 2: 13,14 (NIV); John 1: 29 (AV); 1 Peter 1: 18,19 (NIV)

Christian Redemption: I keep coming back to this fundamental subject because Redemption is the bedrock of Christianity. Christian Redemption is the Good News in which two phrases keep recurring: "I have blotted out your sins" and "Fear not". The blotting out of sins through the death of Christ linked with Redemption is an essential part of the New Testament but is also repeatedly foretold in the Old Testament. "I have blotted out, as a thick cloud thy sins. Return unto Me, for I have redeemed thee." (Isaiah 44: 22)

To make this quite clear "Fear not for I have redeemed thee" rings out again and again throughout the Bible. It is also an essential part of the Gospel.

But "Fear not for I have redeemed thee" (Isaiah 43: 1) often came, and frequently comes to a world which rejected the message. It still "feeds on ashes. Its deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say: Is there not a lie in my right hand" (Isaiah 44: 20). "Robbed and spoiled, they are ensnared in holes: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; none saith restore" (Isaiah 42: 22). (‘Restore’ here, does not mean ‘bring back the old days’. Rather, it means ‘None saith, Return to God and He will bring you back to a good health and a good spirit’ [35].)

Fear of death was and still is a great dread, which was more open in the ancient world, less so nowadays. Even now it can be covered up by false beliefs and thoughts of a painless extinction at the end of life, but the dread is still there. Christ has put this away and has "delivered them who through fear of death (dread of death) were all their lifetime subject to bondage." (Hebrews 2: 15) "Fear not", (dread not), the Redemption and the Resurrection, link together to form a Christian message for our pagan world just like that proclaimed by the Early Christian Church.

We need to return to Redemption, again and again, especially these days when so many churches spend their time stressing ‘the good side of humanity’. Their ministers fear they will be unpopular, and their congregations will melt away, if they preach the uncomfortable fact that ‘all have sinned’ and the amazing answer of God in the fact that Christ came to redeem us from sin. "Others have completely ignored the message of the Early Church that all have sinned and God has sent His Son to save and deliver us from sin. Instead the message of the Gospels has been drivelled away into insurance tickets to heaven, or made to deal only with ‘drop outs, wastrels and scoundrels’ [36]. ‘It does not, of course, apply to us good upright church going folk.’ What a travesty of the Good News of the Gospels ! "Jesus was a friend of publicans and sinners" and He reserved His harshest words for the ‘good upright’ religious leaders.

More recently we have "The New Way of Creation Theology" which stresses that the Church has been too occupied with Sin and must now turn its attention to the wonder of creation and the good things of life. The message of Redemption from the evil of Sin has been forgotten. The ‘modernist’ clergy say: ‘We don’t talk of such negative things’. Public popular opinion is that talk like that is absurd, pointless, uncomfortable and not worth listening to.

So the clergy preach great thoughts about Man and small thoughts about God.

How mistaken can we get! People who deny the pervading evil of sin in this world need their heads examining.

What would Paul [37] think of so many of our present day churches? Paul, who said: "We preach Christ and Him crucified; a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the Wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1: 23 (NIV))

Isaiah gives us a wonderful look forward to Christ: "Fear not for I have redeemed you. … Do not be afraid, for I am with you. … Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43: 1,5,18,19 (NIV))

Isaiah foresees this new thing as he writes of God’s Redemption: "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions … and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43: 25 (NIV))

"All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3: 23) "We are avid readers of the news of other peoples’ failings, though we do not think of them as sins. None of us like to be reminded that we are all sinners. We are blind to our own sins and our leaders are also blind. No wonder that we keep falling into ditches (Matthew 15: 14).

Rejection of Christ
John 6: 66 (RSV)

"But some believed not" [38] and some of them, from the first, resented and mocked Christ and all His Works and Words. Some of us having been attracted to Christianity find, as we begin to learn more of Jesus, that we object to His demands on us. Whilst he was an atheist Christ appeared to C.S. Lewis as a ‘Transcendental Interferer’ [39]. During this atheist stage, which he later called one of monstrous individualism, he wanted to find a region in his life, which he could surround with barbed wire; which he could guard with a notice: ‘Keep Out’. Here he could say to all other human beings, ‘This is my business and mine only.’

Others go along with Christianity until a dreadful tragedy breaks up their lives and their prayers seem to reach a void from which there is no answer, apart from ‘the strong feeling that we as individuals do not matter. ‘What are we, in essence, after all but a meaningless dance of atoms?’ Of course the truth of Christianity is the antithesis of this, but our thinking is clouded at such times.

Satan will, if he can, tempt you to doubt everything you know about Christianity. But you do not need to succumb. Doubt in itself is not wrong. ‘One who starts with certainties usually ends in doubt. It is better to start with doubts, and then as you go on, you may approach to certainty’ (Francis Bacon). But succumbing to doubt, prostrating yourself before doubt, without a mental fight is wrong. The ‘Uncertainty Principle‘ of Heisenberg and the ‘Complementarity Principle‘ of Niels Bohr have been a boon to Quantum Mechanics. These principles were enunciated in 1927 but the beauty of ‘uncertainty’, as it were divorced from physics, has become very much an ‘in thing’ in the arts and theology. Many intellectuals have fallen in love with ‘uncertainty’ in fields that are a long way from physics. Their posture is not necessarily the best one to imitate if it is ignorantly divorced from analysis and the important concept of the ‘balance of probabilities’.

Gnostics totally reject the Son of God coming to this world and dying on the Cross for our sins. To such, it is ‘logically’ impossible for a purely spiritual God ‘having no contact with evil matter’ to have a son, and then, of all things, to give him a human body, and send him to live in this corrupt flawed world. No uncertainty about it for them!

Most people in the U.K. have explicitly or implicitly rejected Christianity.

For instance they feel that this concentration on sin and salvation is most uncomfortable and terribly outmoded. "Anyway", they say, "since rationally and scientifically we have convinced our selves conclusively that there is no God, where on earth is there a place for sin (as an offence against God) in our lives?" As for guilt, this can be really bad for you! Every civilised and mentally sound person should have abandoned guilt by the time they have left school! The final insult is when Jesus Christ’s followers preach that he was crucified between two thieves, ‘the lowest of the low’. "And after all that their preachers make sure that it all ends happily with the Resurrection! ‘What a load of bunkum! Surely this is just the tranquillising of sick minds! We shall have nothing to do with it. And as for these ‘babblers’ [40], let’s go and make a mockery of them in public."

"And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked …" (Acts 17: 32)

The mockery soon turned to derision and Christians are still held in contempt by many, especially by our satirists, critics, cynical intellectuals and many media professionals.

Gnosticsm & the Proclamation of Christianity with special reference to John’s Gospel (Cont)

Scorning of the Scriptures
John 5: 18 (NIV)

Many have rejected the Scriptures and prefer the humanist standpoint which is that humanity is sufficient itself; it does not need God.

Humanists believe that some human beings can, on their own, lead a ‘pure divine like life on earth’, despite the fact that no humans have ever done this. They see no need for Jesus Christ of the gospels and cannot accept His Incarnation, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

"As for sin and redemption, who believes in sin nowadays, and who needs redeeming? The whole idea is demeaning! Man is doing very well on his own without God. We are learning fast about the origin of life on earth, and how the earth came about, without any need to think a ‘God’ had anything to do with it." Here we see ‘great thoughts about man’ and only an empty space left for God.

Evolutionists love Richard Dawkin’s ‘Selfish Gene’ theories, which make ‘sin’ an essential result of the evolving process. Human cloning is getting closer and we are well on the way to the next step, the making of synthetic life. "There is no need at all to involve a ‘god’ or ‘God’ in such processes. As for the ancient worn out concept of the soul, we now think we can locate the brain region from which the religiously inclined derive their spiritual thoughts. So be real. Forget the soul. It does not exist."

Susan Blackmore in "The Meme Machine" (OUP 1999) seeks her ultimate explanation for society, the individual and religion in something called a ‘meme’ (a kind of copied behaviour). ‘The root of all evil‘, she reckons, is the illusion of concepts of ‘self and free will’ – which are nothing, of course, but memes. If only we could get rid of the illusion that self and will are real, we could happily live our lives ‘body, brain and memes’ in the comforting ‘knowledge that that is all there is.’

The greater part of morality, she writes, is simply stopping ‘all the harm that we normally do’, rather than taking on ‘any great and noble deeds’." I agree with the last sentence. It would be wonderful if we could stop all the harm that we all do. But it is not possible to do this ‘simply‘. I think it takes the power of God within us to do this ‘simply stopping‘. But she would of course not agree. Again it is a case of thinking ‘great thoughts of man and very small to non-existent thoughts of God‘.

But truly their "understanding is darkened" (Ephesians 4: 18) and "how great is that darkness" [41]. These people are good at answering the ‘what’ question but remain ignorant of the ‘why‘. So many of them are virtual pagans whose parents and grand parents had rebelled against Christianity and carefully shielded their children from any contact with the scriptures. No wonder they remain ignorant in their attacks on what they brand as Christian.

"They are deceitful children, unwilling to listen to God’s instruction. They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophecy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with your Holy One of Israel!" (Isaiah 30: 10,11 (NIV))

Our Refuge
Psalm 46: 1,2 (AV); Isaiah 4: 6 (NIV); Psalm 91: 2 (AV)

"In every crisis of life, both in the Old Testament and the New, and in the latter especially in our Lord’s teaching, this aspect of God is emphasised: ‘God is our Refuge‘. Yet until we are hit by sorrow, it is the last thing we seek from the Lord." [42] It is at these times when the Christian should turn, nay flee to God. "The Eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deut. 33: 27). "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him." (Nahum 1: 7). "We have a strong consolation who have fled to our refuge, to take hold of the hope offered to us. This hope is an anchor of the soul, firm and secure." (Hebrews 6: 18,19).

In the 4th Gospel we find: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 6: 37). "Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink.’" (John 7: 37). "I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8: 12). "I am the door : by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved" (John 10: 9). In the other Gospels and in fact through the rest of the New Testament (NT) the concept of refuge in Christ is repeated over and over again.

Jesus has gone before us to make for us a sanctuary, a refuge, and we know that we can trust Him.

Something Wrong at the Basis of Things
John 12: 27, 28 and John 16: 20, 22 (both NIV)

When we are faced with a devastating loss, we begin to see the deficiencies in our long held notions that rationalism is the basis of life and that things are in essence calculable. Such self satisfied beliefs crumble as we find that tragedy, not rationalism is the basis of life. (See Explanatory Note 1 at end of document.)

The danger, for Christians and non-Christians alike, is that withdrawal and ‘most bitter lamentations’ [43] – (a normal response) – are followed by an abnormal state, anomie [44] and sometimes lasting hatred [45] of things and people and also religion that are often wrongly thought to be the cause of that loss.

It is no use telling a woman who has lost her child in tragic circumstances [46], ‘Cheer up and look on the bright side’. There is no bright side, it is absolute darkness, and if God cannot come to her help she is in a pitiable and terrible condition. It is better to remain reverent with what we don’t understand than to rush in with our creeds and theology. There is suffering before which you cannot say a word; all you can do is to remain dumb, in silent intercession [47], and leave room for God to come in, as He likes. The ‘bottom board’ of rationalism is gone for her; there is nothing reasonable about what she is going through. We can refuse to face the facts; or close our minds and deny them; or we confess that in this particular we are agnostic. We cannot, on our own, think this through.

If all we can offer this woman is our doctrine, we do better to stay dumb, as it were on our knees, until God shows us how we can help. All one can do for another who is facing such deep problems is to remain kindly agnostic. This is a matter for God, not for us; our creed cannot begin to touch it. The biggest benediction one can give in such circumstances is not in our words but that we imply: ‘I do not know the answer to your problem, all I can say is that God alone must know; let us go to Him.’ [48]

Faith, Belief and Reasoning
Luke 24: 15 (AV); John 16: 33 (NIV); Isaiah 40: 28 (AV)

The point for us is : "Do I believe in God apart from my reasoning about Him? There is a difference between ‘believing our beliefs’ and ‘believing God’.

"Theology is a great thing, so is a man’s creed; but God is greater than both, and the next greatest thing is my relationship to Him.

"When we are brought to the heart of things, we find tragedy there, and a gap. We see God as a distorted refracted image. There is a gap and a wildness in things, the gap between what God intended for the human race and what we actually are. If God does not step in and adjust it, there is no hope; but God has stepped in through the Redemption. Our part is to trust confidently in Him. Either the pessimist is right when he says we are autumn leaves randomly driven by the blast of some ultimate power without mind, or else the way out is by the Redemption of Jesus Christ." [49] Millions have followed this way over the last 2000 years and they found that it works.

Job as an Illustration of Faith Versus Reasoning
James 1: 5,6 (AV)

Job was a blameless and upright man, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. He was the greatest of all the people of the East, very successful in all that he did – a large family, a farmer on a large scale, who looked after his tenants and did not turn the poor away from his gates. He was also very rich.

"His creed was that God prospered and blessed the upright man who trusted in Him, and that the man who was not upright was not prospered. Then came calamity after calamity, everything Job believed about God was contradicted and his creed went to the winds. He lost sons and daughters, and all his possessions. Then he lost his health and we find him in despair, sitting among the ashes, covered in loathsome sores, scraping himself with a potsherd.

"And his wife said, ‘Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.’ And Job replied, ‘Shall we receive good at the hand of God and shall we not receive evil?’ This is the last reach of faith. Job’s creed is gone; all he believed about God has been disproved by his own experiences, and his friends come and say, in effect, ‘You are a hypocrite, Job, we can prove it from your own creed.’

"But Job sticks to it: ‘I am not a hypocrite, I do not know what accounts for all that has happened, but I will hold to it that God is just and loving and honourable and I shall yet see Him vindicated in it all.’

"Job is up against the problem that things do not look as they should if God is the kind of God that his implicit belief constrains him to declare He ought to be.

"Things as they are make God appear indifferent and cruel and remote.

"If your sticking point is a particular creed or dogma, you end up with having to shut your eyes to facts or tell a lie to protect your dogma. Not one of Job’s ‘friends’ can endure him; they believe he is desolate because God has left him so. According to their creed God rewards the righteous and rejects the wicked. Job must be a wicked hypocrite and this is why he has lost so much and is left bereft of hope, in constant pain, covered from head to foot with stinking running sores. His life has become a dragged out agony. Even his wife appeared to reject him.

"All his ‘friends’ can do is to offer him ‘miserable comfort’ [50] from their creeds. Yet Job knows that this is not the explanation." [51]

"The explanation is that there is something wrong at the basis of things. God appears refracted. "Things have been taught about this distorted view of God which are seen to be diabolical when viewed in the light of our Lord’s revelation of Him." [52] This is where believing our beliefs instead of believing God, can lead us. [53] Extreme Calvinists make this mistake.

‘Pseudo-evangelists, on the other hand, go wildly off the tracks by making out that salvation is a bag of tricks. Whereby if I believe certain shibboleths, (Joshua 12: 1-4), I am tricked out of Hell and made right for heaven – a travesty of the Gospel, which gives us the most tremendous revelation of the Redemption of the human race by Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Remain steadfastly true to the Lord Jesus Christ who reveals to us what God is like. When you have to suspend your judgement, say it is suspended. This was Job’s attitude all through. [54]

Knowing God: In Jesus Christ man can truly know God
John 17: 26 (NIV)

"In Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. … And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen His glory, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14 [NRSV]). John would have agreed with Paul: "God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." (2 Corinthians 4: 6,7 [AV]).

John at the beginning of his Gospel wrote: "In Him was life; and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it." (John 1: 4,5 (NIV)). And then he wrote the rest of his Gospel to explain how Jesus Christ came as that light and that life to show us what God was like, that He loved us while we were yet sinners, so much so, that He died on the Cross to save us.

No one has seen God, but Jesus Christ has shown us what He is like without distortion. This is set out clearly in the Prologue in John 1: 14-18.

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the Only Son from the Father. … From His fullness have we all received grace upon grace."

"For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

Then comes the remarkable closing sentence of the Prologue. "No one has ever seen God; the Only Son, … He has made Him known."

Jesus Christ is not some being intermediate between God and man, but God Himself as Man.

This is the great wonder and mystery of the Christian faith. God has, in the Person of His Son, Himself become flesh. God’s eternity has been joined to man’s temporality (transient life on earth), and this occurred in man’s history.

God remains invisible, but He is no longer unknown or unknowable. Jesus Christ, the Word, who is the Son of God Incarnate has revealed Him and made Him known. ( See Explanatory Note 2 at end of document.)

"According to the New Testament, Jesus Christ is God manifest in the flesh. This fundamental revelation of the Christian faith is frequently overlooked among Christians." [55] We can only really know God personally in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God Himself as Man. This is why we worship Him. ( See Explanatory Note 3 at end of document.)

John 8: 34 (NIV); John 1: 29 (AV)

‘Why are things we experience so out of joint? Is it because God or the devil has designed this? It is of neither. It is of man’s decision to be his own god.’ [56]. ‘There is an intuitive certainty in all of us that there are some things that we ought not to do.’ [57]. These are sins.

God created man in His Own Image, so that he should : "Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind and all thy strength." (Mark 12: 30). Satan tempted man to do his own thing and to act as his own god. "And ye shall be as gods." (Genesis 3: 5). Man succumbed and liked the idea and soon became adroit at forgetting God and going his own way. So the first of these commands was put into the trash bin and the second soon followed it. This is when things went out of joint in a big way, and this is where we are today, and THIS IS SIN.

It is as if man said to God: ‘Get out of my way. I claim the right to myself. I shall do my thing in my own way.

The one principle of Hell is, ‘I AM MY OWN’ [58].

Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to take the ‘short cut’, and all the ‘temptations centre round this point: ‘You are the Son of God, then do God’s work in your own way‘; and our Lord answered: ‘I came to do My Father’s work in His way, not My own way, though I am the Son of God.’ [57]

Forgiveness Through Redemption
1 John 1: 8,9 (NIV); 1 John 2: 1-3 (NIV); John 8: 36 (AV)

‘The Bible maintains that man, (though he continually denies this), desperately needs forgiveness due to the appalling act of sin, [59] i.e. man’s red-handed mutiny against God and blatant rejection of all His ways. After man spurned the Fatherhood of God, claimed the right to himself and went his own way, he found he needed to worship something.

Isaiah says that a man takes a tree and cuts it in two. He uses part on which to cook his food, and the other part he carves into an idol to worship. ‘None of us do that !’ we say.
But we do. We worshp our idols.

Idols come in different forms, such as possessions, a particular person, power, information technology especially the internet, evolution. All these things have a place in man’s thinking and acting. It is the worship of them as gods that is wrong and if we are honest with ourselves this is what we do. The list is endless but the GREATEST IDOL of all is ONESELF. [60].

In the face of this, how does God forgive sin? The Bible tells us that, due to sin, the human race is a ruin of what it was designed to be.

God Himself has taken the responsibility of sin and the proof that He did so is the Cross through which we are forgiven. God holds me responsible if I refuse to let Him deliver me from sin‘. [61] (See Explanatory Note 4 at end of this document.)

We Need a Rescuer
Psalm 69: 1,2 (AV); Psalm 22: 19 (AV); Psalm 118: 5 (NIV)

‘When a man gets convicted of sin (which is the most direct way of knowing that there is a problem at the basis of life), he knows that he cannot carry the burden of it. This problem is too big for a man to solve. However much he tries, he comes to the end of what he can do for himself saying that unless God will be a refuge for him, there is no way out, death is the only thing. Job is seeing for the first time that God is the only refuge, the only way out for him. Yet he cannot get at Him through his creed, it is all confusion; the only thing is to fling himself on God.’ [62]

If we were in Job’s situation we would be drowning, as it were, in a deep bog (Psalm 69: 1,2.). Being sincere, being religious, doing good things, is no help. We cannot lift ourselves out by our own bootlaces. We need a Rescuer [63]. God does not leave us to flounder hopelessly. He has done something about it. He has sent someone to rescue us and His name is Jesus (the name means Saviour or Rescuer). Jesus said that He came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10) He did not come just to show us what God is like, (though He did this). Nor did He come just to teach and live a perfect life (which He did). He came to save us and this meant losing his own life to rescue us. [64]

Man also knows that God dare not just forgive him, if this makes no difference to his way of life. If He did, it would mean that man’s sense of justice is bigger than God’s. It is as though God had a problem – to remain just, yet to forgive people who were desperately guilty [65]. "The great miracle of the grace of God is that He forgives sin, and it is the death of Christ alone that enables the Divine nature to forgive and to remain true to itself in doing so. It is shallow nonsense to say that God forgives us because He is love. The love of God means Calvary and nothing less." [66]

True Forgiveness
1 John 1: 9 (AV); Psalm 32: 1 (AV); Psalm 86: 5 (AV)

One of the big problems we all face is whether we are able to forgive the other man who has wronged us. We should remember that part of Our Lord’s Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us." (Matt. 6: 12 and also verses 14,15 that follow it): "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses".

We know nothing about the Redemption or about God’s Forgiveness until we find that we cannot earn our salvation by our own efforts. We cannot even forgive our neighbour, far less love our enemy which Jesus also told us to do. Then we begin to understand why we need to turn to God. When we do this, we find that Jesus Christ, through the gift to us of the Holy Spirit, becomes our Enabler: "Now unto Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us." (Ephesians 3: 20 NIV)

He comes down into our situation and helps us as we follow Him.

God loves the sinner but not the sinning.

‘How can a Christian, who will not forgive his neighbour believe that God is willing, yea, wanting to forgive him. If God said, "I forgive you" to a man who hated his brother, what would it mean to him? How would that man interpret it?

Would it not mean to him: "You may go on hating. I do not mind it. After all you have had great provocation?"

That man would think, not that God loved the sinner, but that He was comfortable with and forgave the sin. God never acts this way. The more provocation, the more excuse that can be urged for the hate, then surely there is more reason that the hater be delivered from the hell of his hate.’ [67]

What is usually called "forgiving the sin" means forgiving the sinner but also delivering him from his sin. This is what God does through Jesus Christ who came into the world to die for us, while we were yet sinners, and so save us from our sins.

"God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5: 8 (NIV).

Paul in 1 Timothy 1: 15 (NIV) writes: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst."

If I am forgiven without being altered, such forgiveness is not only damaging to me, but a sign of unmitigated weakness on the part of God.

Unless it is possible for God’s forgiveness [68] to establish an order of holiness and rectitude, forgiveness is a mean and abominable thing. Thank God it is possible through the power of God working in us.

Isaiah 50: 10 (AV); Isaiah 51: 12,13 (AV and NIV); Ezekiel 11: 19,20 (NIV)

We all sometimes fail, but God does not close the door on us and reject us, because we have failed. The early disciples were upright sincere and eager men; they had given up everything to follow Jesus and yet they repeatedly failed Him and the last failure was the worst. Where did it all end, three years after their brave start? "They all forsook Him and fled" (Mark 14: 50 AV). They had come to the end of themselves and then that they found "their eyes were opened and they knew Him" (Luke 24: 31). They also knew themselves as they had never done before. They had come to the end of their self sufficiency.

The prodigal son, ‘having wasted his wealth in wild living’ also ‘came to himself’ and returned home. ‘I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. … ‘But while he was a great way off, his father saw him, and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ That son, despite his rebellion and self inflicted destitution, was fully welcomed home and restored. (It was exceptional , in those times, for a Jewish father to run to meet his son.)

To return to the disciples, they were also made welcome after their failure. In their want, they were in turn willing to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. After the Resurrection, Jesus "breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20: 22). But they had to tarry a while before its power could work through them. Just before His Ascension, Jesus said to his disciples: "Tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high" (Luke 24: 49). Fifty days after the Jewish Passover (our Christian Pentecost), this is what happened and "they were all filled with the [power of the] Holy Ghost" (Acts2: 4).

When God’s Spirit enters a life, something marvellous always takes place. All becomes different from before. These same disciples who had forsaken Jesus in His hour of need, who had hidden themselves in dark corners and attics quaking in terror of their persecutors, the Jewish leaders, were after Pentecost, transformed. They were to be found openly and boldly preaching the Good News of the Gospel and ‘they continued steadfastly’ in this way (Acts 2: 42 AV), even though James was beheaded, Stephen stoned to death and many others killed because of their bold proclamation of the Gospel.

Large crowds came to see and hear Peter and John after they had healed a cripple at the temple gate. They were arrested and brought before Annas, the high priest, and the elders and teachers of the law. They were asked, "By what power or what name did you do this?"

Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, replied: "Rulers and elders of the people! It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. … Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." … When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled , ordinary men, they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. … They commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John replied, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard." (Acts 4: 5-20 NIV.)

They continued preaching the Gospel and it was not long before the Good News spread to Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece and then the whole of the Roman Empire.

An example of repeated failure: You may be aware of the story of David, after he seduced Bathsheba. May I refresh your memory. David made Bathsheba pregnant [69] while her husband Uriah was away fighting in the wars. He thinks that he can tidy up his problems by getting Uriah back on leave from the front, when he would surely sleep with his wife. Then when the baby arrived, everything would be above board!

But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. David asked him why he didn’t go home. Uriah replied, ‘My master Joab and his men are camped in the open fields. How could I go home to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will do no such thing!’ David tried again by getting Uriah drunk, but again in the evening, Uriah slept on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

In the morning David wrote to Joab ordering him to, ‘Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.’ He sent the letter with Uriah. Joab did what he had been told to do and Uriah was killed.

After the time of mourning for Uriah was over, ‘David had Bathsheba brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.’

The Lord was very angry and sent Nathan, the prophet, to David. Nathan told David about two men who lived in the same town, one a rich land owner and the other very poor. The rich man was famous for his sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb that he had managed to buy. He raised it as if it were a member of his family with his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

When a friend came to visit him, the rich man, in order to keep his large flocks and herds intact, took the poor man’s ewe lamb, had its throat cut and prepared it for their supper.

David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! … because he … had no pity.’

Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.’

"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. … I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in His eyes? You had Uriah the Hittite struck down by the sword of the enemy, and took his wife to be your own.

"Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. … Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you."

David, who possessed absolute power could have had Nathan killed for his daring public confrontation. But he knew that Nathan spoke for God, and in what may have been the greatest moment of his life, he admitted, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’

Calamities did come. The baby got sick and died. The sword never departed from his family. Among other disasters Absolom, one of David’s spoilt sons, led a serious though eventually an abortive revolt against him, and was killed. David ‘was so much moved’ that, in his prolonged mourning, he neglected to maintain the morale of the people. He kept up a long keening, crying out repeatedly, "O my son Absalom, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33)

David’s runs of ‘mistakes’ were desperate sins. But God, who saves the lost, did not reject him. David, came to himself and turned back to God. God was able to use his sins and mistakes to bring David to a deeper trust in Him and a closer walk with Him. [70] He was enabled by God in many ways. One of these was the writing of those wonderful Psalms, such as 32, 51, 37, 42 and 46, that have helped so many people from his day to this. He was closer to God at the end than at the beginning.

Jacob was renowned for his cheating habits but it was favouritism that would cause big problems in his family. Later he spoilt his son Joseph badly, making his other sons so jealous they wanted to kill Joseph (Genesis 29: 30; 30: 24 and 37: 4,17,18 NIV Student Bible).

Moses makes the mistake of trying to save his people by throwing his weight about, killing an Egyptian, insisting on sorting out the Israelites private problems for them – and finds himself banished for many decades to the backside of the desert. Only then was he brought to really know that, on his own, he was powerless. But God could and would work through him to deliver the Israelites from Egypt (Exodus 2: 11; 12: 42).

Overall Hezekiah was a good king, trusting in God. He was even likened to David in zeal for the Lord. But when representatives from Babylon came to Jerusalem, he boasted to them about the contents of the Temple and even showed them all his treasures. When the prophet Isaiah warned him that Babylon would come back to take those treasures and more, Hezekiah blithely contented himself with God’s promise to him during his illness, that he would have peace in his lifetime.

Both David and Hezekiah had spoilt their sons, Absolom and Manasseh, who later brought evil and calamity on Israel. Was this a case of ‘the sins of the fathers.’?

I could go on telling you of the sins and mistakes of a succession of Biblical characters, and how they were brought to God. Then I could tell you of my own failures, but I will not do this here. I have much more interesting ground to cover.

God can bring good out of the extremes of our own folly; God can "restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten." (Joel 2: 25) They say that those who never make mistakes never make anything. Certainly, these men sinned and made rotten mistakes, but when they turned back again to God, He did not reject them. They learned to cleave to him in a way that would never have happened otherwise and to know His mercy. With God’s grace they went on to do great things for Him.

Jesus Christ the Redeemer
John 8: 12 (AV)

"The Christian believes that Faith in our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, is a wonderful gift of the Grace [71] of God to the whole world."

"Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1: 17)

‘Here is the incredible grace of God, his gift of life to men who, though living, would otherwise die, and it is here in truth, i.e. in reality, in the words and in the works of Jesus of Nazareth.’ [72] Grace is God’s love in action towards us sinners when we merit the opposite of love. Grace is mercy contrary to merit. The purpose of grace is primarily to restore our relationship to God by drawing us closer and closer to Himself. [73]

All that is necessary for Salvation is that I should answer Jesus’ call ‘Come unto Me’ [74], and come. "Salvation is easy because it cost God so much; it is the manifestation of it in my life, day in and day out, that is difficult." [75]

Jesus cannot begin to do anything for a man until that man knows his need, knows that he is morally bankrupt in the sight of God and knows that he needs a ‘Rescuer’ because he cannot rescue himself. Jesus Christ can do this if He is asked. ‘He can save the man who is a blatant pious hypocrite, as He can save the vilest piece of stuff that humanity and the devil have put together. If they will come to Him, Jesus Christ says to them, "Blessed are you"’ [76]. Salvation is a free gift to all who come to Jesus when He calls.

Our Response to the Gift of Salvation
John 12: 35,36 (AV)

So there is a gift. After an ordinary gift the giver expects a response – a thank you. But this gift is not ordinary. It comes to us by the grace of God: iniquities covered, sins forgiven and abundant life in this world, (John emphasises this aspect), and the next. Our response should involve joyful acceptance and then following him in continual thankfulness.

Remember, we have the will to follow Jesus Christ when he calls and become His disciples. We have the will but will we exert it?

The will is part of our human nature. Like a muscle it should be exercised or it will waste away so that we become weak willed or in some other way degenerate, e.g. allow our self will to lead us into drugs and all manner of mischief.

If we decide to follow Jesus when we are drawn to Him, this means we exert our will to obey Him. It is so much easier to remain philosophising and speculating "in the cool evening twilight of Higher Thought where there is nothing to be obeyed, and nothing to be believed except what is comforting or exciting." [77]

"When God gives a vision of truth, it never a question of what He will do, but of what we will do." [78].

"God saves me and endues me with the Holy Spirit, and says in effect – ‘Now work it out, be loyal to Me, whilst the nature of things round about you would make you disloyal. Remember I have called you friends.’ Stand loyal to your Friend. His honour is at stake in your bodily life." [79]

God’s Part and our Part
Philippians 2: 12,13 (AV, also LB); 1 John 4: 9-11 (AV)

I cannot save myself; I cannot atone for sin; I cannot redeem the world; I cannot make right what is wrong, pure what is impure, holy what is unholy. This is all the work of God. Salvation is all God’s part.

The prime doer in Christ’s Cross was God; He was God doing the very best for man, not man doing his very best for God.

Common sense says, ‘What a wonderful being is man in the making!’ The New Testament says, ‘What a magnificent ruin man is, of what he was once!’ [80] Think on this before asking, ‘What is man’s part?’

In John 6: 28,29 the people listening to Jesus asked Him, "What must we do, to do the works God requires ? Jesus answered, ‘This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He has sent.‘ " ‘Belief’ is a huge word but a part of it is faith and trust. [81]

So we should have faith. Salvation is a gift of God. Have we faith in what Jesus Christ has done for us in offering us this gift? Have we learnt to trust Him? Remember that He has redeemed us, and all the above is His part: salvation, atonement, redemption.

Faith is also a gift of God, but it is up to Man to accept it and exercise it. Will has also been given to me by God. I have to waken up my will and exert the faith I have been given through the power of the Holy Spirit.

This ‘waking up of the will’ and exerting the gift of faith is hard work and this is Man’s part.

The Redemption of Christ is the great act of God which He has performed through Christ, and I need to build my faith upon it.’ [82] ‘Not my way but yours, dear Lord’, should be our daily prayer.

Man’s part is also obedience to His Lord and sharing in the working out of salvation in his own life with ‘fear and trembling’. (Philippians 2: 12).

C.S. Lewis [83] says that most people stop there, not realising that this statement should be read together with v.13. It is part of one amazing paradoxical sentence with two halves: ‘First, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" – which looks as if everything depended on us and our good actions : but the second half goes on, "For it is God which worketh in you." This looks as if God does everything and we do nothing.’

Paradoxical statements, such as this, occur quite frequently in Christian theology because it is difficult for us to understand all that God does.

It is not as if we can ‘work our salvation by doing good’. But we need to ‘work out the salvation we have been given by Christ’s death for us‘. Salvation is a wondrous gift of God to every one who believes in Him. It is a gift of free unmerited grace. But we have to work out the salvation we have been given in practical living. We are enabled to do this because God works in us "to will and to act according to His good purpose." (Philippians 2: 13 NIV.)

But remember ‘all God’s promises are sealed, until they are opened to us by obedience‘. [84].

"Faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2: 17.)

Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt and virtue. We soon find that however hard we try to be perfectly moral we fail and go on failing, in the recurring mode, if we are honest with ourselves.

Then when we read the Sermon on the Mount we find that Jesus’ commands add to the Law a new spiritual content and this is still further beyond our capabilities. "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time … But I say unto you: that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the Judgement. … That Whoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. … That ye resist not an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. … Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matt. 5: 22,28,39,44). (See Explanatory Note 5 at end of this document.)

We cannot, on our own, do what Jesus says we should do. (See Romans 7: 18,19.)

We need to be empowered from within by His Holy Spirit before we can be led on into something which is beyond our capabilities when unaided. Paul puts our dilemma vividly in Romans 8: 21-25 (NIV). "So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from the body of this death? Thanks be to God … through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Paul went on to say: "I can do all things through Christ which stengtheneth me" (Philippians 4: 13). Like Paul and Peter and all Christians, this does not mean we will never fail our Lord again, but if we do, we know He will not reject us if we return to Him. (See Section on ‘Failure‘). "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore will not we fear …" (Psalm 46: 1,2.)

"Let the wicked and unrighteous man forsake his way and his thoughts: and let Him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God and He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55: 7). " ‘You have turned away from My decrees and have not kept them. Even so – Return to Me and I will return to you’ says the Lord. … ‘Prove Me in this’, says the Lord Almighty ‘and see if I will not open to you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.’ " (Malachi 3: 7, 10.)

"God saves men by His sovereign grace through the Atonement of Jesus; He works in us and we have to work out what God works in; not work our own salvation, but work it out (with God’s help) in practical living." [85] This means that we need to use our will.

I have been given this ‘will’ (See section on Faith by Kierkegaard) to obey God but will I exert it?

"That is where the battle is fought, in the domain of the will before God." [86]

A Personal God

Have you seen that picture by, Holman Hunt, showing a door overgrown with weeds which has no handle? The door handle is on the inside and only you can open it. Christ is knocking at the door. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me." (Revelation 3: 20)

Our part is to open the door because Christ cannot do so, and opening the door, on our part, involves an exertion of our will.

You become a Christian when you open the door of your life to Jesus Christ and invite Him to come in to live in your heart and life; come in as your Saviour to rescue you; come in as your Lord to control you; come in as your friend to be with you. You cannot ignore Him for ever. Will you invite Him in or keep Him out?

I have ended on this personal note because the basis of Christianity is a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. "The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2: 20.) Of course God also loved the world, and that is why He sent His only Son to die for us. Then also, the Church is a Christian community loved by God, but this edifice is built on the personal faith and devotion of each believer. Jesus Christ is a personal Saviour, Redeemer and Friend. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … For I am persuaded that neither death nor life … nor things present, nor things to come … shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 35-39)

The bedrock of the Christian faith is the unmerited fathomless marvel of the love of God, exhibited to each of us personally, on the Cross of Calvary. [87]

The Decisive Question [88]

Who do we take God to be? Is He the Lord, our Lord, who is with us in everything and is always there for our good, whatever may happen?

Or is He some sort of Principle and First Cause which, when the chips are down, means less than nothing to us?

Explanatory Notes

  1. ‘Tragedy not rationalism is the basis of life’ but according to the Bible, God in Redemption, secured by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross has made a way out from this grim outlook. ‘No man can redeem the world; God has done it and Redemption is complete. God has taken the responsibility for sin, and the proof that he has done so is the Cross; God holds me responsible if I refuse to let Him deliver me from sin.

    The basis of things is not reasonable. Reason is our guide among things as they are, but it can never account for things as they are.’ [89]

  2. We can only really know God personally in Jesus Christ. This is why Christians worship Him as ‘Lord’. Jesus Christ is God Himself as Man.

    Oswald Chambers (OC) wrote: "There is only one God for the Christian, and He is Jesus Christ." [90] This quote could be misinterpreted to ignore the Old Testament. Oswald Chambers certainly did not do this. [91] He was speaking about a personal relationship with God, and this is only possible through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    He is the exclusive way to the Father (John 14: 6). [92]

  3. God remains invisible, but He is no longer unknown or unknowable. The mystery of His will and purpose has been made known in Jesus Christ, the Word who is the Son of God Incarnate. It is important to know what the Word in this context means, namely Jesus Christ Incarnate: "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, … , full of grace and truth" (John 1: 14 AV).

    John used language with special meaning for both Greek and Jewish readers. In Greek Philosophy, "Word" (Logos) was a key term, often referring to the power of reason undergirding all creation. For Jews, too, "Word" had great significance, for God spoke His Word to create the world and to transform His people.

    Yet John’s meaning passed beyond the Greek and Jewish ideas because it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh and dwelt among us; Jesus Christ through whom man can know God.

    A bright 8 year old Sunday School girl expressed it well. When asked why Jesus was called the Word, she said: "Because ‘Jesus’ is all God wanted to say to us." [93]

  4. The majority see Jesus’ death as a thing beside the mark.

    ‘If you have never been screwed up by problems, your morality well within your grasp, and someone tells you that God so loved you that He gave His Son to die for you, nothing but good manners will stop you from being amused. The majority see Jesus’ death as irrelevant.

    But when a man gets to his wits end, things go hard for him, his thick hide is pierced and he is stabbed wide awake – he begins to see some thing else – "At last I see; I thought He was striken, smitten by God and afflicted; but now I see – He was wounded for my transgressions." [94]

  5. The Christian religion is not one of Perfectionism, but of Redemption.

    The high but unclimable peak of the Sermon on the Mount seems to be "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Matt. 5: 48 (AV) ends with this text. Schofield [95] makes this footnote: "The word ‘perfect’, as used here, implies full development, growth into maturity of godliness but not sinless perfection. In this passage the Father’s kindness, not His sinless perfection, is the point in question."

    Luke uses the word ‘merciful’ in his account in Luke 6: 35,36. "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful."

    There has been much misunderstanding of this word ‘perfect’ in this context. I hope this will stimulate you to read the whole of Mathew 5. I have several quotations from this Gospel in this document. Your father was much impressed on first reading it.


  1. No longer a child, I know, so please accept my apologies. This phrase comes from a book – the name of which escapes me. It is applied to people of all ages.
  2. There is a real danger in getting into bitter argument. This is particularly well shown in the remarks of Job’s ‘miserable’ comforters: Bildad, Zophar and Eliphaz in chapters 18, 20 and 22. The two speeches of Bildad and Zophar are among the nastiest in the book. These two men, who appeared to be overwhelmed with compassion when they first visited Job, are now intent on cruelly heaping more grief upon him – just to defend their (flawed) theological views that God always prospers the good while bringing disaster, such as Job’s, in this life on the bad. Eliphaz fills his speech with heartless personal attacks on Job’s behaviour, which have no truth in them. Job refutes each one in his closing speech (chapters 29-31).
  3. E.M. Forster in "A Room with a View". This is a great novel. Have you read it?
  4. Useful abbreviations for Christianity and Christian are Xianity and Xian but I have tried not to use these in this document.
  5. John 20: 31 (NIV) and discussion in Marsh pp. 47,48 (book ref. in [6] below).
  6. From: Dodd C H "The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel", Cambridge University Press, 1954; John Marsh "The Gospel of Saint John", Penguin Books, 1991; "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of The Christian Church", ed. by E.A. Livingstone, Oxford University Press, 1977 and "The Oxford Companion to the Bible", ed. by B.M. Metzger and M.D. Coogan, Oxford University Press, 1993.
  7. Valentinus was born in Egypt but lived in Rome from c.135 to c. 165. He had hopes of being elected bishop but was passed over, and seceded from the established Church.
  8. Marcion (d. c. 160) taught that the Christian Gospel was wholly a Gospel of Love to the exclusion of Law. He consequently rejected the Old Testament (OT), holding that the Creator God depicted therein had nothing in common with the God of Love revealed by Jesus. This Creator seeks to hold the human race in slavery and uses ethics and the law for this purpose. Hence it could be seen as a positive duty to disobey all such commands. Such ideas led to libertinism in some Gnostic cults; a lofty religious philosophy side by side with sensual indulgence. However the main direction of Gnosticsm was towards asceticism.
  9. ‘This Gnostic outlook probably stemmed from Egypt but was governed by a sharp, characteristic Greek, division between the spiritual, regarded as good, and the material, deemed to be evil. In such a system no place for a real Incarnation of God could be found; one consequence was Docetism : a system that acknowledged Jesus as Son of God but claimed that this was merely a seeming or phantom event. These Gnostic and Docetic views were entertained in the First Century CE by Cerinthus, and in the Second Century by Basilides, and by those whom Ignatius of Antioch attacked.’ (See Oxford Companion to the Bible, p. 377, 378 on the First Epistle of John. Book ref. in [6] above).
  10. The Hermetic writings were believed to have been written by The Egyptian god Toth. Hermes Trismegistus (thrice greatest) was the name that the Greek Neoplatonist devotees of magic and alchemy gave to Toth.
  11. Syncretism: The tendency to combine the characteristic teachings, beliefs and practices of differing systems of religion or philosophy. Thus the Gnostics borrowed freely from Greek, Egyptian and Jewish philosophy and Christian religion and many religious cults. It is sometimes difficult to detect which is being adopted at different parts of their writings.
  12. Dodd C H "The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel", pp. 97-114. Book ref. in [6] above.
  13. Religious: Relating to, or concerned with religion. Religion: The ordering of one’s life, one’s conduct and character, in the light of one’s beliefs about God i.e. the practical working out of a man’s response to divine revelation.
  14. Metaphysics: Metaphysical study dealing with the nature of first principles, esp. of being and knowing and the nature of reality.
  15. Myth: 1. A usually traditional story about ostensibly historical superhuman beings of an earlier age. This customarily serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon. 2. A person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence. 3. An ill-founded belief held uncritically esp. by an interested group. 4. The whole body of myths.
  16. Many of my quotes from C H Dodd are without a page reference but come after an allusion to, or in the context of, this book by Dodd. Book ref. in [6] above.
  17. Man: Def. A human being, whether male or female. ‘Man ; he ; mankind’ occurs throughout this document, always in this ‘non-PC style’. God and Christ are referred to with a capital ‘H’, as in He and Him. It would cumbersome, to put it politely, to keep to ‘PC’ in this type of article and I do not even attempt to speak of Jesus Christ and God as ‘She’, quite apart from the fact that this is very un-scriptural. What a pity that most ‘PC-ites’ are virtual pagans and have no deep Bible experience!
  18. Dodd, C.H.: "The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel", page 114. Book ref. in [6].
  19. John Marsh: "The Gospel of St John", page 34. Book ref. in [6].
  20. But remember: "Faith that is sure of itself is not faith. Faith that is sure of God is the only faith there is. Such faith continually keeps at the source – Jesus Christ." "Thus it is possible to know all about the great doctrines of the Christian faith, and at the same time not know Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, Redeemer and friend." (Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest", p.353. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, London, 1927 with many printings since then.)
  21. Pascal, B.: (1623-1662) "Pensees" number 418. Penguin Classics, 1981.
  22. Pascal in his ‘Pensees’: numbers 424, 189, 191, 417 and Krailsheimer, A.J. in: ‘Pascal’, p.66. Oxford University Press and Past Masters, 1980 – a great book and worth getting hold of.
  23. Hammond, T.C.: "In Understanding be Men – A Handbook of Christian Doctrine" edited and revised by David F. Wright, p.18. Inter-Varsity Press, 6th Edition, 1968.
  24. Adapted from "Edifying Discourses a selection" by S.J. Kierkegaard. Collins fontana books, London and Glasgow, 1958.
  25. To have conquered the future before one begins on the present – is this not of importance? It should be, because it is not until a man has finished with (conquered) his anxieties about the future that he can be entirely and undividedly in the present.’ (From Kierkegaard S.J. see [24] above.)
  26. Salvation in the Christian spiritual sense is a New Testament word. "What must I do to be saved?" asked the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:30), and the concept of salvation is found frequently in the Epistles, with the answer: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." To ‘believe’ in this context of Salvation, is not just to accept the truth and existence of Jesus, but to trust in Him, follow and obey him. Forgiveness of sin by Jesus is spiritual healing and Salvation. Salvation from sin with forgiveness through Christ’s death on the cross, is found throughout the New Testament. Salvation is linked with Atonement, Redemption and Reconciliation with God (discussed separately in this article). In the Old Testament, on the other hand, Salvation is usually associated with physical victory and rescue from danger. This is supported by the derivatives of the Hebrew root ‘ys’. (Coogan M.D. in "Oxford Companion to the Bible", pp.669,670. Book ref. in [6].) However if you read Isaiah (especially chapters 40-66) you will find that the writer clearly foresees and describes God’s work of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Isaiah 53 is a good starting point. (Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is another.)
  27. Atonement: Reconciliation of man with God through the sacrificial death of Christ. See [96].
  28. Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest", July 7th. Book ref. in [20].
  29. Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His highest", May 5th. Book ref. in [20].
  30. This section on John 3: 16,17 has been adapted from "The Gospel of St. John" by John Marsh, pp.181-184.
  31. "Liberated from the bondage of decay into the glorious liberty of the children of God." Romans 8: 21
  32. "Death – The Riddle and the Mystery" by E. Jungel. The Saint Andrew Press.
  33. The branch of theology concerned with the end of the world. The doctrine of last things: (such as the 2nd coming of Christ, Resurrection, and Judgement).
  34. See ‘Oxford Companion to the Bible’ on ‘Eschatology’ p.193 and ‘Day of Judgement’ pp.157+.
  35. Definition of ‘Restore’ adapted from Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus, point 1. Harper Collins, 1995.
  36. "The Shadow of an Agony" by Oswald Chambers, pp. 114-118. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1934 and paper back 1976.
  37. Some modern clergy unfortunately think that the Apostle Paul is mistaken so they usually ignore him. (Unfortunately for us, and most unfortunately for them!)
  38. "… believed not …" (John 6: 64; John 8: 45; John 10: 26.)
  39. "Surprised by Joy" by C.S.Lewis, p.139. Collins Fount Paperbacks, Glasgow, 1984.
  40. "A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him (Paul). Some of them asked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say? … He seems to be advocating foreign gods.’ They said this because Paul was preaching the Good News about Jesus and the Resurrection."
  41. Matt. 6: 23. "But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
  42. "Baffled to Fight Better. Talks on the Book of Job" by Oswald Chambers, pp.41 and 42. Simpkin Marshall, London. 1947. I have been influenced greatly, in what follows by 3 books by Oswald Chambers: "My Utmost for His Highest", "Baffled to Fight Better" and "The Shadow of an Agony", and also by "The Gospel of Saint John" by John Marsh.
  43. Jeremiah 6: 26. "O daughter of my people … make thee mourning, as for an only son, most bitter lamentation: for the spoiler shall suddenly come upon us."
  44. Anomie: a state in an individual or society in which normative standards of conduct and belief disintegrate. Often precipitated , in an individual, by loss of his traditional moorings with proneness to disorientation, isolation, alienation, angst and despair. (Angst: the dread occasioned by man’s realisation that his existence is open towards an undetermined future, the emptiness of which must be filled by his freely chosen actions. Often misused as a synonym for anxiety. Angst carries a more specific and greater meaning.)
  45. Hatred: We should remember, when using this word and its antonym (opposite meaning word), that the opposite of love is not hatred but indifference.
  46. Or in your illustration: loss of a son on the Belgrano.
  47. Intercession: The act of interceding or offering petitionary prayer to God on behalf of others.
  48. This section has been adapted from "Baffled to Fight Better" p. 32, 33.
  49. From "Baffled to Fight Better".
  50. Job 16: 2. "… miserable comforters are ye all."
  51. This section has been adapted from "Baffled to Fight Better" p.32,33.
  52. "Baffled to Fight Better" p.57.
  53. "Do I believe in God apart from my reasoning about Him? There is a difference between ‘believing our beliefs’ and ‘believing God’.
    "Theology is a great thing, so is a man’s creed; but God is greater than both, and the next greatest thing is my relationship to Him." from "Baffled to Fight Better".
  54. Adapted from "Baffled to Fight Better" p.57.
  55. From "Shadow of an Agony" p.15.
  56. Pascal, B.: (1623-1662) "Pensees" number 418. Penguin Classics, 1981.
  57. "Baffled to Fight Better" by Oswald Chambers, p.48
  58. "George MacDonald, an Anthology" with a Preface by C. S. Lewis. Collins Fount Paperbacks, 1983.
  59. Sin (as opposed to sins) is a fundamentally wrong relationship. It is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. ‘I do not need God. I shall do my thing in my own way. I claim my right to myself.’ ‘Sins‘ include, a. ‘missing the mark’: any offence against a principle or standard including offences against a person. b. Misdeeds. c. Iniquity: that which is patently and essentially wrong in itself.
  60. "Baffled to Fight Better" by Oswald Chambers, pp.41 and 42. Simpkin Marshall, London, 1947.
  61. Oswald Chambers in "The Shadow of an Agony" (p. 21) and "My Utmost for His Highest".
  62. From "Baffled to Fight Better".
  63. Colossians 1: 13,14. "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have Redemption and the Forgiveness of Sins."
  64. "What’s the point?" by Norman Warren. Lion Publishing 1986.
  65. However "the Scriptures give no hint of a conflict between these attributes. God’s justice and His love are not in any way opposed. The remission of sins at Calvary is as much derived from His justice as His love." Hammond TC and Wright DF, p.119.
  66. "My Utmost for His Highest". November 19th p.324.
  67. From "George MacDonald, an Anthology" number 13, p.6.
  68. ‘Forgiveness means not merely that I am saved from sin and made right for heaven (no man would accept forgiveness on such a level); forgiveness means that I am forgiven into a recreated relationship with God in Christ.’ "The Shadow of an Agony" by Oswald Chambers, p.18.
  69. 2 Samuel 11: 1 – 12: 23 (NIV). A record of how one sin can lead to another and another.
  70. I have been helped in this part by reading "Knowing God" by J.I. Packer especially pp. 226-229. (Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1973). However I am not a Calvinist, so my adaptation of this section on David, is a broad one for which I take full responsibility.
  71. Grace: a. The free and unmerited favour of God shown to man operating through the Redemption, (rescue through ransom), that is in Christ Jesus. b. Grace is a treasured Christian word. It occurs only three times in John 1: 14,16,17. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of Grace and truth. … And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. … For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
    The word ‘Grace‘ does not occur after chapter 1, but the meaning of this precious pearl of a word underlies the whole of John’s Gospel and is brought out in full by Paul and Peter in their Epistles and in Hebrews.
  72. John Marsh in "Saint Joan", p.264.
  73. From J.I. Packer in "Knowing God", p.226,227
  74. "Is it not humiliating to be told that we must come to Jesus! Think of the things you will not come to Jesus about. In every degree in which you are not real, you will dispute rather than come, you will quibble rather than come, you will go through sorrow rather than come. You will do anything rather than come the last lap of unutterable foolishness – ‘Just as I am, without one plea / but that Thy blood was shed for me, / and that Thou bidst me come to Thee / O Lamb of God, I come.’" From "My Utmost for His Highest."
  75. Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest."
  76. From "My Utmost for His Highest".
  77. From "Surprised by Joy" by C. S. Lewis, p.53.
  78. From "My Utmost for His Highest".
  79. From "My Utmost for His Highest", June 16th p.168.
  80. From "The Shadow of an Agony".
  81. Faith is ‘belief and trust in and loyalty to God.’ Webster’s Dictionary.
  82. "If I construct my faith on my experience, I produce that most unscriptural type, an isolated life, my eyes fixed on my own whiteness. Beware of the piety that is not based on the Atonement of the Lord. It is of no use for anything but the sequestered life; it is useless to God and a nuisance to man." Oswald Chambers in "My Utmost for His Highest".
    Atonement: Definition: ‘the reconciliation of God and Man through the death of Jesus Christ.’ (See 2 Corinthians 5: 21) I cannot deal with this extensive subject of Atonement here. Hammond and Wright have a well reasoned discourse on the doctrine of atonement, pp. 125-127. Oswald Chambers has a section on this subject in "Shadow of an Agony" pp. 18-20.
    Hammond and Wright strongly advise two books on this subject: "The Death of Christ" by James Denney (Tyndale Press. 1951), and "Why the Cross?" by H.E. Guillebaud (IVF, 1946).
  83. "Mere Christianity" by C. S. Lewis. P.124. Fount Paperbacks, Harper Collins, London, 1997.
  84. Pascal, B.: (1623-1662) "Pensees" p.284. Penguin Classics, 1981.
  85. "My Utmost for His Highest". July 7th. p.189.
  86. "My Utmost for His Highest". August 18th, p.231.
  87. From "My Utmost for His Highest". March 7th, p.67.
  88. Adapted from "I Believe" by Helmut Thielicke p.66. Collins, London, 1969.
  89. "The Shadow of an Agony" by Oswald Chambers. p.14
  90. From "Shadow of an Agony" p.15. OC, was writing about the Redemption and, like the Apostle Paul, "resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2: 2)
  91. Oswald Chambers referred to Old Testament (OT) writings in all of his books and 3 of his books are on the OT : ‘Not Knowing Whither’ (The Life of Abraham). ‘Baffled to Fight Better’ (Book of Job). ‘Shade of His Hand’ (Book of Ecclesiastes).
    He spoke frequently about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. "The Making of a Christian" is a good short book to start with. Other books on this subject are: "If Ye shall Ask"; "Our Brilliant Heritage" and "God’s Workmanship". All should be obtainable through Religious Bookshops or from ‘Oswald Chambers Publications’.
  92. "The Shadow of an Agony" by Oswald Chambers. p.59
  93. From "The Student Bible with Concordance." Note on John 1:14 (NIV) p.918. Hodder &amp Stoughton, London, 1997.
  94. "Shadow of an Agony" pp. 16,17.
  95. "The Schofield Reference Bible" p. 1001, Note 1. Oxford University Press (OUP), London 1917.