The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Is accepting Jesus a sufficient condition of being saved?

This is one thing:
“belief in Jesus Christ”

This is another Thing:
“Jesus Christ”

Jesus Christ is the Savior. Our belief is not our savior.

Consider: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). Plus, “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the unjust and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).

I remember seeing a passage somewhere that went something like this: ‘I witnessed about Jesus Christ to a Buddhist monk, and I asked him if he was ready to ask Jesus Christ to come into his heart. He replied to me, “I can’t do that, because He’s already been living in my heart this whole time. I just didn’t know His name until now.”’

In short, all good things (whether worldly or spiritual) are given to people by Christ. A man’s bank account, a man’s victory over alcohol, you name it, it all comes from Christ. He gives these good things to all sorts of people, Christians and non-Christians. We don’t become Christians in order to get stuff, but rather because we recognize that Christ is the Truth.



I haven’t studied those verses in any ultra-literal translations, so I’ll have to take a look. You might like the Concordant Literal Version, which I think you can probably find on-line if you search it. I don’t have time to look them up right now, though, so I don’t know that they’re different.

I would say though, that when we read “condemned,” we think “condemned to death or hell,” when it doesn’t have to mean that. You might be condemned to 16 hours of public service in a court here in the USA, or to 10 years in prison. Very, very few are condemned to death (and NONE to eternal conscious torment! except perhaps by the curses of their victims) I think that we ARE condemned so long as we continue to cling to our sins. On the other hand, if we HATE our sins, as many do, but can’t seem to wrest ourselves free of them, we may be “condemned” to having those sins burned away – a thing I know I will be very, very relieved to be “condemned” to experience.

The way I see these is that so long as we don’t believe, we’re condemned to remain as we are, but God is also committed to helping us to believe. It’s never hopeless.

Love, Cindy

Thanks, Cindy. And, I will look into the Concordant Literal Translation.

I was just going through a list of Bible verses, or proof texts, on an Atheist website, that shows some of the atrocities alledgedly committed by the OT God, Yahweh. Given that I have never actually read through the OT in its entirety, I was really shocked and disturbed by what I read. It made me think that if these (and other) verses misrepresent the true God, whom Jesus is an accurate representation of, then, perhaps, believing in Jesus is a necessary requirement to have eternal life (defined as knowing God). You know, because then we can see a God who does not go about killing his enemies, but, rather, a God that allows Himself to be killed by His enemies. And, I think, enemy love will go a long way in rescuing or saving the world from sin (or perishing). This makes more sense some of Jesus’ words, including John 3:16.


A lot of the OT is pretty scary if you take it literally. Yet I do think that if we read it correctly, we can still see a picture of our loving Father there, and of Jesus and the dear Holy Spirit as well. The atheists are justified in railing against the literal “god” they see Christians believing in, in the OT. THAT god (the one they perceive) IS horrible, but THAT is not our Father and our God. I think that the OT is a story, written by human beings, about the growth and development of the nation of Israel in their relationship with God. A LOT of it is colored by their early perceptions of what a god was likely to look like, and by what was seen as a good trait for a god to have (the ability and desire to hate and defeat one’s enemies, keep those rebellious kids in line, straighten out those weirdos on the other side of town, etc.) As you read through it, you see things changing in the view that the writers have of God. I would definitely recommend (when you someday do decide to read it) reading in chronological order. That reading method highlights the change over the years.

I wrote a post yesterday, here: Inspiration-What does it mean to you? talking about how I feel about the nature of scriptural inspiration, and there are a lot of other good posts there too, on the same subject.

So, about your verses:

Looking at my other translations, that seems to be a good rendering. Here it is in the Jonathan Mitchel NT (not a version for casual reading :laughing: )

I’m just sharing it because I love the visual of being immersed in the “set-apart Breath-effect” of the Holy Spirit – and at the same time, in fire. In other words, we’re not in the fire alone – the Spirit is there all around, comforting, counseling, teaching, loving . . . . But the fire is the scary part I guess. In the AoG church I used to go to, the “fire baptism” was coveted because we thought it made you fiery and powerful. :laughing: I kind of think we missed the point. I suspect the fire purifies, as it almost always does in scripture. It is certainly a desirable baptism for that reason, though it’s good to know the Spirit will be and is there with us.

Again, it seems a good translation to me. It looks like you quoted only the first part of the verse (which is fine). Here it is in the CLV:

First, I want to point out that “trial” here doesn’t refer to a courtroom hearing, but rather a testing/proving of faith. We test our children in school to make sure they’ve understood and learned their lessons. If they fail the test, then they have to go back and study some more so they’ll pass the test. In the end, WE unfortunately often make it all about the test grade, but in reality, it’s all about the kids learning things they need to know, and then making sure they’ve learned them. The faith is more precious than gold (which will perish) and as it is tested by fire (probably the only effective way to test faith is by adversity), Peter prays that their faith will be found praiseworthy and that this beautiful faith will show Jesus Christ to the world.

Again, not bad. Here’s the CLV:

Just to clarify, Peter is talking about persecution that the church to whom he’s writing is or will soon be suffering. That is the fiery trial. Like the last one, this remark refers to earthly persecution as opposed to anything that might have to do with a celestial judgment. Sometimes we do suffer persecution; sometimes it’s just the trials of life. You and I know these can indeed be fiery.

There’s another meaning for testing, and while Peter didn’t use the exact word (which I don’t remember just now), I think it nevertheless applies, and it is so used elsewhere. In the refining of metals, testing means “proving,” or completing the purification and refinement of the metal by heat. So the trial doesn’t ONLY measure faith, but goes beyond that to IMPROVE the faith by getting rid of anything in there that doesn’t belong – anything that’s NOT faith.

Regarding the statement, “Our God is a consuming fire,” clearly He is not literally a fire, so we have to look at what the fire symbolizes. In the verses you’ve cited, the fire is testing, proving, purifying. Baptism is a rite of purification, and surely those being purified aren’t to be destroyed. But their impurities WILL be destroyed, and that destruction may hurt. I can testify that often it DOES hurt. To learn to hate lying because you’ve seen the damage a lie that YOU have told has done in your own and even more, in others’ lives, is NOT a pleasant process. I would call that an experience of “fiery wrath,” even though it was necessary for purification. If we can set our sins aside voluntarily, that will save us from experiencing the fire in that instance, but of course many of us find this very difficult to do. Sometimes nothing but fiery wrath can set us free from persistent, enslaving sins. As I was writing this post, I was also writing a letter to a dear friend, encouraging her to remember the same thing for her alcoholic husband. Sometimes we need to feel the pain if we’re ever going to recover. It’s sad but true.

Love, Cindy

I was just going through a list of Bible verses, or proof texts, on an Atheist website, that shows some of the atrocities alledgedly committed by the OT God, Yahweh. Given that I have never actually read through the OT in its entirety, I was really shocked and disturbed by what I read. It made me think that if these (and other) verses misrepresent the true God,

Some things to consider in this matter. You may have heard the expression “a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.” Especially when it comes to the OT because it covered thousands of years and 99% of the time God was merciful. There were times when judgment befell certain cultures and i believe there are explanations for those few times this happened and for certain reasons it appears God takes the hit. But i think we do need to trust Jesus and remember Jesus is said to be the exact image of God. If you want to know God get to know Jesus. That’s better then a few opaque OT verses.

CH - one thread on this forum, that dealt with one of the difficult verses in the O.T., might be worthwhile to review:

Thank you for the thoughtful responses, everyone. * I will try to give y’all’s responses a better read some time later tonight, including that thread you linked, Dave, and hope to get back in here with a more worthy response this weekend (which I am particularly bad at doing --esp, when I say I would :blush: [tag]JasonPratt[/tag]. I have been waiting for some real quiet time for topics I think deserve more attention/effort, but keep getting distracted, and jumping around all over the place. I defo. need to be more intentional about keeping my word.)

Cindy, I think you might have had a mix up in terms of the specific verses I was having trouble with. But, I think you did an excellent job with the Scripture verses you did look at. And, thank you for sharing the various translations. I think they will be very helpful to me.

Mod/Admins: if I am straying too much from the OP, let me know, and perhaps I can start another thread. Yeah?*

{summoned}{bamf!} Hi!

…so, what’s going on? :slight_smile: Y’all seem to be chewing things over rather nicely.

The term for ‘belief’ would be more accurately translated ‘trust’, or better yet to trust X in a way that you yourself can be regarded by X as trustworthy yourself.

Rarely an easy thing to do, and proportionately less easy when we’re talking about someone being staked to death as an analog to Satan! (The bronze-serpent in the Moses incident, which itself is very peculiar.)

Still, sin involves acting against the ultimate source of our existence, where that source is itself a mutually self-supporting interpersonal relationship. We can’t be in proper communion with that source unless and until we ourselves are both trusting and trustworthy.

That means being saved from sin (or being unfallen) already!

Looked at from that perspective, the primary action to bring us to “eonian life” must come from God – a point technically accepted by Arminians, too, but especially emphasized by Calvinists (and their Catholic predecessors either way of course).

Consequently, the Son of Man being lifted up like the serpent in the wilderness, must refer to an action taken by the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) to lead people to trusting in Him (and thus to trusting in God). Jesus says as much Himself a couple of times later in GosJohn – He’s the one dragging all persons toward Himself by being lifted up!

(And note that by creating not only an analog with the bronze-serpent, i.e. Satan, in an explicitly salvific context both in Moses’ day and in Jesus’ day, Jesus must be including the bronze serpent among those being dragged toward Him for salvation! Which by the way fits one of the Holy Mountain prophecies in Isaiah, where the little child who leads the people will play with the bronze-serpent who at last is eating dust as prophesied waaaaay back in Genesis against the treachery and tragedy of the Fall.)

John 3:16, God gives His Son so that people may be believing in Him and so not be perishing but may be having eonian life.

3:18, well of course anyone not cooperating with God yet is being judged, but other parts of scripture indicate that God takes a pretty broad view about who is cooperating with Him and to what extent (for example whoever does the truth comes toward the light, Who is enlightening every person who is coming into the world!) – and an unnervingly broad view about who isn’t sufficiently cooperating with Him even though (like Nicodemus for example) they have all the advantages and ought to be doing so already! But God does not send His Son into the world to (only) be judging the world (as someone in the Pharisee party of Roman-occupied Israel might be teaching, not-incidentally to the setting of this scene), thus not primarily to be judging the world (though the Son does act as judge where appropriate), but so that the world may be saved through Him. Who is the one especially in view here then as being judged? The one who is not trusting the name of “Jesus”, “THE LORD SAVES”, and so who doesn’t accept that Jesus isn’t primarily here to judge the world but rather to save the world!

(This is one of those parts of GosJohn with Synoptic-like surprise reversal judgment sayings. The whole Nicodemus incident is quite Synoptic-ish in its details, as I like to point out to critics who think GosJohn is sooooooooo different from the Synoptic accounts. :mrgreen: )

It’s true that he who is stubborn as to the Son (John 3:36) shall not be seeing God’s own life and the wrath of God abides on him; but it is also true that (v.35) the Father, loving the Son, has given all things into His hand – and as Jesus testifies several times, especially in GosJohn, He shall lose none of the all that the Father has given Him, and nothing can taken them from His hand, but He shall be raising them up in the final Day. So in that immediate context, what does it mean to be stubborn against the Son? Out of a number of real possibilities, the immediate topical answer would be to reject the idea that the Son has been given all things into His hand or else to reject the idea that the Son can and will save what has been given into His hand.

Anyway, too long didn’t read version: what’s being talked about in John 3 (whether by Jesus, or by John the author in inspired commentary – there are different theories about whether he starts commenting somewhere around 3:16 or a little earlier – or by John the Baptist in inspiration later in that chapter)


It isn’t even mainly a warning against non-Christians who flagrantly reject God and/or Christ (as their savior or otherwise), though it can apply to them, too, of course, depending on their attitude.

It’s mainly a warning against people nominally already strongly on God’s side who insist on God not being the savior of the world after all, despite God loving the world so much that He gives His only-begotten Son to be slain in such a dishonorable fashion it’s compared to the slaying of Satan. Those people are hugely disrespecting the goals and intentions of Christ’s voluntary sacrifice on the cross.

Though by the same token let me immediately add that the judgment isn’t against people making an accidental doctrinal mistake on the topic, but against people with a particular attitude against salvation of other people in their hearts – as usual for Christ’s judgment warnings here and in the Synoptics.

Hope that was helpful to your concerns, CH, and also on topic for the original post. :slight_smile:

Ahhh, I just realized how ambiguous my summon was! Difficult thing about written (and verbal) communication --I some times think that people know what I am thinking inside my head, and that some how negates the need for clarity :blush:

I actually tagged you Jason, because I wanted you to know that I have yet to respond to your posts on your book thread, and, that I am particularly bad at getting back to topics I say I would get back to :blush: :blush: :blush:

Nonetheless, a BIG thank you to Cindy and yourself for your comments. Hopefully, one day I can tip you both :slight_smile:

Have a good weekend, all.

Ok. I am finally settled and able to think through these posts thoroughly.

Jason -

I am still having trouble understanding why John 3:16, for e.g, is contructed the way it is, because it seems as though not perishing/eternal life is dependent on a subjective belief/trust in God’s Son, rather than the objective action of the Son of Man in his voluntary sacrifice.

In terms of John 3:16: Are we saying that God loved the world in this way – that He sent His only Son to perform an action (be lifted up on a cross), so that in doing so, mankind would be led, or enabled, to trust in Him (and in God)? And, that as a result of this trust, we would have eternal, or as you say, eonian life?

Now, if eternal life here is referring to knowing God, then it would make sense why trusting Him is important, and thus why the action of the Son to lead us to trust Him is important. But then, does this mean that we perish if we don’t know God or don’t know who He is? And what does the term “perish” here mean? I know it can’t be referring to physical death, since even those who trust in Christ die. So, again, how are we perishing apart from trusting in God? If this is referring to being destroyed by sin, then, I feel like I am going all the way back to the main topic, namely, is believing in Jesus a necessary condition in order to be saved (from sin)?

I think I am confusing myself.

Also, if Jesus is referring to a specific set of people who has an attitude against the salvation of other people, is He saying that because they do not believe/trust that God is a Savior of all people, that they will perish, but if they do, they will have eternal life?

The use of the word “Whoever” in John 3:15, 3:16 and 3:18, doesn’t sound as though Jesus is talking to a particular group of people (namely those with a heart attitude against the salvation of other people). Has this word been translated accurately?

Cindy -

I read and appreciate what you had to say on the thread on the inspiration of Scripture. The way I see it, either the monster god often times (but not all of the time) portrayed in the OT is the real God, or, the writers got those parts wrong. I do find it interesting that the gods of many religions, (for e.g. Islam), seem to resemble the “monster god” in character, (esp. when it comes to commanding the slaughter of people who hold to a different belief system). So, perhaps, like you said, many ancient religions and religious literature, are colored by the early perceptions of god that men had back then. It’s not hard for me to imagine that without the development of science and technology, that mankind blamed God for the outbreak of diseases and natural disasters etc.

Anyway, I think I agree with what you wrote concerning the verses on fire upthread. And, I also agree, experientially speaking, that the destruction of sin sure does feel like “fiery wrath” —which I think is necessary in order to be free. I like what you said about testing children in school, and, that unfortunately we often make it all about the test grade. I think this is exactly what some groups make fighting sin all about - escaping ECT Hell, rather about learning how to love.

I read this quote recently, and I thought it was legit:

Nice reference to something Jesus reportedly says later in GosJohn, by the way. :slight_smile:

We’re already perishing even while alive – the Greek grammar puts it that way, and various other NT writers (like Paul in 1 Cor 15) agree. To be mortal is always to be perishing. And not in the good, highest ‘death’ exemplified by the Son even in the unity of the Trinity either – though we can synch-up our mortal perishing with that higher death, too (as Jesus Himself does on the cross).

In the substantial economy of the Trinity, the 2nd Person is always voluntarily and actively submitting in loyal cooperation with the 1st Person – that’s the eonian life of God the one and only self-existent fundamental reality, right there! (It’s also, in a different mode or direction, analogically speaking, how the 2nd Person is specially instrumental in creating all not-God reality, by self-sacrifice.)

Even in the most miraculous physical, mental, and spiritual resurrection possible, unless we’re sharing in God’s own life we’ll still be mortally perishing, even if God makes sure through various methods to keep us alive. I strongly expect that’s going to be part of the lesson of the general resurrection: merely living forever isn’t eonian life.

Relatedly – and this is a point specially brought out in GosJohn – we can start having eonian life already and still die. Eonian Life Himself can still die on the cross.

But in some important ways what the Son did was to finish dying. We’re expected to finish dying, too, but bodily failure and decomposition in itself is not the end of dying. We can be fully resurrected and yet still not have finished perishing, even if strictly speaking we never go through full bodily shut-down again.

One of the special merits of GosJohn, not really brought out as much in the Synoptic reports, is that it teaches a radical rethinking of what it means to live and to die – without contravening the obvious meanings either. (Lazarus still dies – and then dies again! Jesus still dies on the cross; that isn’t some kind of illusion.) But it does so in a way that has led to a lot of legitimate debate and (if I may put it this way) legitimate misunderstandings over the years because people can truly get a lot of apparently different meanings out of it. But they’re only different in the way that a cut diamond has different sides – and yet is still a cut diamond and not anything or everything else.

It isn’t the first or most important necessary condition – the intention and actions of God toward that end are the first and most important necessary conditions, including providing us with capabilities and opportunities to cooperatively act in conjunction with God in various ways. So far as we have those capabilities and opportunities we can also abuse them, too, and be in rebellion against the ground of our own existence – which would straight out annihilate us (at least as persons) out of existence except for the actual first and most important necessary condition of our existence, the intention of God.

The reason we can be saved from sin at all is because we are only creatures, we don’t independently self-exist, we aren’t even distinct persons of the one and only foundation of all reality. If the Son (or the Spirit) rebelled against the Father, or if the Father ever really did betray or abandon the Son, all reality would cease to exist, including our past, present, and future. (So we can be sure that isn’t going to happen, even though the Persons are actually free to choose to act that way – they just aren’t ‘free’ to utterly cease self-existence and yet still exist.) We can act against the ground of our existence and yet still exist, not because we thereby become self-existent or because God isn’t the ground of our existence after all (though I strongly suspect this is the key misunderstanding of rebel angels), because God acts to still keep us in existence. There would be no one and nothing to save God (or any creatures) from the results of the Self-Existent Reality acting against the ground of that Reality’s Self-Existence.

This by the way means that when Jesus says later that “this is eonian life, knowing You the only true God”, He isn’t saying something against coherent trinitarian theism: the 2nd Person of God still knows the 1st Person in authoritative loyalty (or put another way, the only true God of the only true God is God, Who is the only true God! :laughing: But that’s no less true for those of us who aren’t substantially the only true God! – and so who at best can only share in the eonian life, not intrinsically be eonian life.)

It also means Jesus is borrowing that old Semitic euphamism of ‘knowing’ to refer to the closest possible experiential personal cooperative union – analogized in itself by the union of husband and wife knowing one another! That sure doesn’t only refer to one of them believing the other one exists! :laughing: But that’s included, too, duh. A man could however even be faithfully and self-sacrificially acting as husband for his wife before she even knows or recognizes his existence as such. Or the other way around, too, in creaturely relationships, but the more masculine partner ideally has more of that duty and responsibility to serve the feminine. And God has the ultimate most of that duty in service to all of us rational creatures – but that sounds weird to say because we have a natural expectation of the highest authority being the authority to be served rather than to serve which we rarely recognize as any real authority at all.

Anyway, ahem. :slight_smile: That’s getting into mystical chivalry concepts. Though they explain a metric ton of all the personal abuses (including seriously messed up theologies) in the world – in my experience they can pretty much all be traced back to the acceptance and enactment of the idea that the highest authority is the authority to be served, and that service has little or no authority at all. (Or alternately that every authority is pernicious or at best illusory – but those are still corollaries or parallels to the chief conceptual fault. They don’t really fix the problem, only kind of try to avoid the problem at best.)

You might have noticed those themes showing up in CoJ already, though. :smiley:

It’s more like a fancy way of making the basic point that if you don’t want other people to be saved you cannot possibly be cooperating with God as much as you should, yet – and are in fact in a special kind of rebellion against Him. “You… wicked… slave!! I forgave you because you begged Me to! Was it not, then, required of you to have mercy?!” And so saying he threw the unforgiving slave to the tormentors until he should be paying the final cent of what he owed. “In just the same way your Father in the heavens will be doing to you, each one of you, if you are not forgiving your brother from your hearts.”

Who was that warning (like most such warnings) immediately thrown at? The apostles, and those already disciples of God. Nicodemus isn’t an exception, he’s an example of the rule.

The threat to whoever means whoever – no exceptions; the promise to whoever means whoever – no exceptions. Whoever doesn’t accept the promise to whoever, is in principle acting against the promise to himself, too.

But the promise is superior to the threat. In fact, to insist that the threat is superior to the promise acts against the whole principle of accepting the promise for one’s self! – and then expecting an exception to be made to the superiority of the threat in one’s own favor, which is the most selfish double-standarding imaginable.

Jesus hammers the point in different ways between the GosJohn and Synoptics reports (and to some extent between different Synoptic reports), but He keeps coming back to it: we don’t get to insist on exceptions against other people’s salvation, and we don’t get to insist on exceptions in favor of our own salvation, because the whole concept of insisting on preferential exceptionism runs against self-giving self-sacrificial fair-togetherness between persons: the intrinsic righteousness of God Most High, apart from which there is no other righteousness.

Okay, I’ll let Cindy do her things. :mrgreen:

Hi, Anna

I’m glad it was helpful (and am also hoping and praying things are going well for you right now, dear Sis). I think you’ve raised a good point. Depending on where we are, I do believe we are all searching for the true God. Muhammad wanted to create a monotheistic religion for his own brethren with a distinctly Arabian flavor, I think, but I don’t believe he (at first) wanted to make it as warlike as it seems to have become in some quarters. Of course, when others (Jews, Christians, Idolators) refused to accept his new religion, it quickly became very warlike indeed. That’s not to say he also didn’t want, ultimately, something good and true. Still, his picture of God was colored by his own concepts of what a god ought to do for his people – as also was the Jewish concept, and many times the Christian concept also (though we at least ought to know better, having such an example set before us.) We always expect our God to be with US. (Gott mit uns, as the Germans wrote all over their military artifacts.) That’s kind of the function of a god for most people – in a more or less aggressive way.

THIS is the idea that we need desperately to grow out of, and it seems to me that the shedding of the idea of a hell for them (and certainly not for us believers) is a big step in that direction. It’s not been very long since Christian denominations in the USA didn’t confess to believing that those fools over in that other denomination had much chance of seeing “glory land.” This morphed slowly to feeling very sorry about such a situation, to feeling that maybe the Baptists (to pick on Jason :wink: ) had a chance despite not being Methodists – to feeling that possibly even the Catholics could be saved. In fairly recent years, even the Catholics are being suggested at (by the Pope no less) that non-Catholics could possibly, maybe, even make it. That even the rebellious and intractable god-haters could have a chance is still quite a leap for most folks, but a great many have at least begun to feel sorry that this seems to be so. These intractable are, I suspect, the baby goats, who are poor and hungry, sick and in prison (for their goatishness in many cases), though some of them may SEEM to be doing just fine after the values of this world, and to whom we ought to bring companionship, healing, food and clothing (if we are indeed sheep). Lest we be found also to be goats just being goaty to the other baby goats.

A very, very long “answer” to someone who has already professed agreement with me. :blush: But I get carried away.

Love, Cindy

I love that way of putting it so much! :laughing:


Thank you for the responses, y’all. I really love the contributions. I’ll get back here and give a reply…??? (not making any exact promises, but soon I hope :wink: )

Hi Jason and Cindy -

I read through your responses again. Thanks! I think I have grasped some of the things said, however, just for clarification, I wanted to ask the following questions specifically:

Let’s say there is a person who has heard about Jesus, but has not come to the place of belief or trust in Him. At the same time, however, s/he clearly sees the blackness and destructiveness of sin in his/her life, and desires to be saved from it. Will God save such a person from their sins, or at least begin the process of salvation in this lifetime ? And, will there be repercussions for this person because of their unbelief in Jesus in this lifetime?

EDIT: I think I’ve asked these same questions in different ways many times on these boards and elsewhere, but, for some reason, something isn’t sticking… so please bare with me.

I think, CH, that if this person sees his/her need and desires to be free from sin, that s/he has already begun that process, that journey, of salvation from sin. If s/he can’t seem to work up the ‘belief’ in God that others seem to have, then maybe Jesus still answers as He did the man who said, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief.” He healed the man’s son. Maybe that WAS the help. I’ll bet this hurting father did believe after seeing his son set free. :slight_smile:

If there are repercussions, I would expect those repercussions to be natural consequences. That is, if the lack of belief causes him/her not to obey or attempt to obey, then the progress will naturally be slower. The Jewish understanding of “believe” didn’t (I’m told) exactly coincide with our own western understanding of it. To them, “believe” and “obey” were twins. If you obey (or at least try your best to obey) then obviously you believe. And if you believe, then of course, you WILL obey to the extent of your ability. The wonderful thing about all this is that Father celebrates our tiny progress as a good and loving earthly mommy celebrates the tiny steps her baby makes toward growing up. “Look! Look! Did you see?! He’s following my finger with his eyes – you can see that, right? Isn’t he wonderful?!” So sweet, those new mommies – the good ones at least.

Tis true; God doesn’t judge us as though we have no difficulties. He already knows and takes into account all the legitimate excuses – and I’m not saying that to dismiss excuses.

Lewis (possibly following MacDonald here as he usually does) says that while God won’t be satisfied until His child can freely run, He is pleased with any progress she makes at all. MacDonald says it is something even to recognize the chains of our sins as poisoning and enslaving us, even if they seem to us to be gold; and that God loves us even when like the rich young synagogue ruler we turn away from trying to take even the first step up the mountain – but that on the other hand, while the mountain is important we aren’t supposed to live clinging to its surface and in fact we only would freeze and suffocate on its height without God changing our selves so that we can breathe and fly. (So we shouldn’t glory in climbing the mountain.)

The apostles themselves asked how, if it was difficult even for the young synagogue chief to be saved who like St. Paul honestly and faultlessly followed the Torah out of love for God, then how could anyone be saved? With mankind, Jesus answered, it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible. It isn’t about us earning our salvation – which I realize isn’t the question you’re asking, but I’m saying that in reassurance. God expects our cooperation, and will keep at us until He leads us to it, but we don’t earn His attention or His persistence by our cooperation first.

The repercussions are only about insisting on fondling our sins once all healing has been done and all excuses have been fairly made. That’s true about anyone, whether we’re Christian or not, and moreso for those of us who are already Christian because we’re supposed to know better! But the repercussions don’t mean God is giving up on us. It’s more like a physical therapist or trainer or sergeant major or martial-arts teacher not giving up, for love’s sake (and because they’re committed to being who they are), in getting us spiritually fit.

And that sort of thing typically starts now already. Similarly, God has already made significant progress with the person in the condition you described – He isn’t waiting to start the process of salvation from the blackness later, He has already gotten him or her to recognize the blackness and in principle to reject it. How many people don’t even intermittently desire yet to be saved from any sins they’re doing at all! – and God isn’t giving up on them either. The Persons have made the strongest possible covenant with themselves, which we with our sins cannot break, to bring us all home, even the 100th goat. (In the oldest illustrations the Good Shepherd is bringing home the last goat.) The Son by His death on the cross shows He’s still committed to keeping His side of the covenant with the Father, even to the point of letting sinners unjustly kill Him, thus paying for letting them (all of us) be children rather than mere puppets of omnipotent power even if that brings temporary real tragedy to the story.

It’s always better to make progress sooner rather than later in cooperating of course. :slight_smile: Better for us, and better for the other people in contact with us. But God doesn’t wait to love us until we make progress.

Rather, He eternally loves us until we make progress, however long that takes.

George MacDonald wrote the following in “The Way” in Unspoken Sermons, Series 2:

Yep, thought I remembered that! – just couldn’t place it, thanks!

It’s quite stunning to discover just how much Lewis wasn’t kidding about MacD being his Teacher. :slight_smile: