The Doctrine of God, Salvation & The Saddest Story

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Not only is a correct understanding about God necessary for salvation, it’s evidence of having salvation.

 

This is one of the most important studies I’ve ever posted on this website. It’s a long read, but I encourage you to stay with it. It’s a message that’s not given much attention these days, but certainly should be.

 

“Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Jesus asked His disciples the most important question people must answer: 

 

(Matthew 16:13-14,16-17) – [13] When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He questioned His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” [14] They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [16] Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. (BSB)

 

How a person answers, what a person believes about Jesus, is the difference between life and death, between salvation and damnation. Peter, of course, answered correctly, that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Important to see here is that it’s not something Peter had to try to figure out. Nor was it something he could figure out on his own. It required the “Father in heaven” to reveal it to him. This is not only true of Peter, but for everyone who comes to faith in Christ.

 

We’ll explore this further, but first, I think it’s important to talk about false prophets among us who teach a false god—a version of God of their own imagination.

 

About False Prophets

(Matthew 7:15-23) — [15] “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. [16] You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? [17] In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] So then, you will recognize them by their fruit. [21] “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven—only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. [22] On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many powerful deeds in your name?’ [23] Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ (NET)

 

In the passage above, Jesus warns us about “false prophets” (false teachers). They’re either deceivers or are totally deceived themselves. False prophets-teachers are also false believers, which includes those who believe and practice what false prophets teach (Lu 6:43-45). He tells us to “watch out.” Jesus gives us this warning and instruction because it’s important that we’re not deceived by those who present themselves as Bible teachers or claim to be Christians, but who don’t actually belong to Jesus—the true God (Jn 1:18; 1 Jn 5:20). He’s not talking about Christians who interpret the Bible incorrectly, who are still growing in their understanding. There’s a vast difference between the two. False prophets are known by what they teach in regard to the major doctrines of the Christian faith, especially as it relates to God and salvation—that which is according to orthodox, historical Christianity.

 

Note: There are true Christians today who claim to be prophets, who claim to reveal the future about things or about people. This article does not deal with that aspect. That’s a whole different discussion. This article only deals with those who teach false doctrine, because false prophets are primarily false teachers (2 Pet 2:1-3; Acts 20:28-30; 1 Tim 4:1-2; 2 Tim 4:3-4). A true prophet represents God and speaks His Word to others.

 

What Jesus describes in this passage is the fruit of a false prophet (teacher), but also the fruit of salvation, or the lack thereof—regarding both who teach and those who believe what false prophets teach. The fruit of a false prophet (and of salvation) refers primarily to doctrine, not necessarily to the way a person lives. For example, Mormons live very moral lives, but what they believe and teach is false. A person may claim to be a Christian, and they may seem to be living the Christian life, but be way off in what they believe. We can be fooled by the appearance of a Christian life (Matt 13:24-30; Matt 23:27-28), but not by what a person believes or teaches (once it’s been clearly explained)—especially if all that they believe adds up to a different religion, even if it does go under the banner of Christianity.

 

What Jesus says in this passage is frightening. He reveals how close a person may resemble a true Christian or a true teacher of the Christian faith (Matt 13:24-30). They have the “appearance of godliness, but deny its power” (2 Tim 3:5). This refers to God’s power. They have an outward form of godliness, but the power of a true godly life is missing, which comes from the Holy Spirit. They deny its power by both their manner of life and by what they believe and teach. We must be discerning. Their lives and belief system may have the appearance of someone who identifies with the Christian faith, but a closer look will always reveal that the way they actually live and what they actually believe is out of harmony with true Christianity (the absence of the power of God to change them). Jesus alerts us and shows us how to tell the difference between the two. Again, this requires us to go below the surface and dig deeper for what people believe and what they teach and how they live their lives. That’s the real tell. If it’s someone we know, and something seems a little off or odd about them, it requires us to ask very detailed questions about what they believe and how they live. The truth about what they believe may be very surprising, if not shocking. What they believe will govern how they live.

 

Those who claim to be Christians, who claim to follow the Christian faith, but believe things that are severely contrary to the Christian faith, do so because they “resist the truth” (2 Tim 3:8), they “turn away from hearing the truth, and turn aside to myths or fables” (2 Tim 4:4). They do this because they seek teachings that line up with “their own desires.” They’re interested in things that are new, rather than the historical teachings of Christianity (2 Tim 4:3). I believe that many such people believe they’ve been granted a special connection to God and to the truth. They believe they have a deeper level of understanding than the rest of us, as well as a deeper relationship with God. They take pride in that. Therefore, they elevate their own beliefs above the teachings that were passed down to us from Christ and His Apostles and the teachings of Christianity throughout history. Such people are not merely deceivers, but dreadfully deceived themselves. Such people are listening to “deceiving spirits and demonic teachings,” having “departed from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1).

 

As Jesus reveals in this passage (Matt 7:15-23), false prophets and false believers may even perform miracles, thereby deceiving those who witness them. That does not inform us about the true nature of who they are, because miracles do not necessarily prove to be of the Lord, but could be of satanic origin. Just because someone speaks in the name of Jesus or does something in the name of Jesus, does not make them a true born-again believer in Jesus. As He informs us in this passage, we can discern who belongs to Him and who does not. The appearance of a life devoted to Christ must be in harmony with doctrinal truth. Again, if we have doubts about someone, as well as the opportunity, it’s important that we ask them to clarify what they believe. We must pin them down and require them to explain in detail what their doctrinal beliefs are, and what they’re basing them on.

 

I think it’s likely that there are many false prophets today who pastor churches that fall under the banner of Christianity, particularly those who start new churches. What they teach may resemble or sound Christian ‒ because of the shallowness of their teaching ‒ but they deceive the unlearned and undiscerning. We must be very careful about who we listen to and who we learn from. We’re blessed with modern technology. We can do an online search and find out about anyone who is in the public eye. Use it! But never assume anything about anyone. Check them out first. Particularly beware of anyone associated with Progressive Christianity, which seems to be advancing.

 

False prophets and false believers who are associated with cults (such as Mormonism or Jehovah’s Witnesses), they sound like Christians, they use the same terminology as Christians, but how they define what they believe is quite different—particularly as it pertains to what they believe about God (each Person of the Trinity), about salvation (soteriology) and about who we are as human beings (our origin, our relationship with God, where we’re going in the afterlife, what type of existence we will have in the afterlife, what type of beings we will be, etc.).  When one rejects the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith, it leads to very flawed and confused, and sometimes very bizarre belief systems. One false belief leads to another. They’re “ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:5-7), even though they may appear to be sincerely seeking God, sincerely seeking the truth, reading the same Bible—as in the case of Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example. In such cases, pride has to involved that prevents them from seeing the truth, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Ja 4:6; 1 Pe 5:5). Sinful pride is at the root of all unbelief. The fact that these people hold such extreme and dark views about God and Christianity is a clear indication that they have not been enlightened by the truth (2 Cor 4:3-6); that they have not been born-again (Jn 3:3-7; 1 Pe 1:3,22,23). Such dark beliefs are not the “fruit of light” (Eph 5:8-9). In other words, it’s not the fruit of salvation.

 

2 Timothy 3:7 that I referenced above – as well as 2 Pet 2:1-3; Acts 20:28-30; 1 Tim 4:1-2; 2 Tim 4:3-4 – are all in the context of Christianity. These passages reveal a sobering reality—that false teachers may arise within Christian assemblies, that people can actually read the same Bible and hear the same Scriptures, and still never come to the same understanding as others, who do come to the knowledge of the truth, and are thus, saved

 

Note:  I would like to add that I believe young believers can get caught up in a false religion for a time (like Mormonism, JW) and be deceived (to a limited degree) by what they teach, if they’re not diligently studying and learning their Bibles and learning from people who teach the Bible as representatives of true Christianity. This is why it’s so important for new believers to be discipled and to be in a good Bible teaching church where the truth is taught.

 

God Is A Trinity

I’ve always said that the easiest doctrine of the Christian faith to show from the Scriptures is that God exists as a Trinity—nothing more, nothing less. To quote a famous commercial, “it’s so easy a caveman can do it.” Well, maybe not that easy! The point is, God has so clearly revealed Himself in the Scriptures as a Triune God, that it’s not difficult to see for those who have been enlightened by the truth, who have the “Spirit of truth” guiding us and opening our eyes to it (Jn 14:17; Jn 15: 26; Jn 16:13).

 

There are a large number of Scriptures I can provide here that reveal God as a Trinity, but I will list only a few without comment (bold print is self-explanatory). A fuller study/post on the Trinity of God is planned for another time. But this is an excellent start:

 

(Matthew 1:20-21) – [20] But after he had pondered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to embrace Mary as your wife, for the One conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. [21] She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” (BSB)

 

(Mark 1:10-11) – [10] As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. [11] And a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.” (BSB)

 

(Matthew 28:18-19) – [18] Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. [19] Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,  (BSB)

 

(John 14:16-17) – [16] And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— [17] the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you. (BSB)

 

(John 14:26) – [26] But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have told you. (BSB)

 

(John 15:26) – [26] When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father—He will testify about Me. (BSB)

 

(2 Corinthians 13:14) – [14] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (BSB)

 

(1 Peter 1:2) – [2] according to the foreknowledge of God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by His blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. (BSB)

 

(Romans 8:9-11) – [9] You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. [10] But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. [11] And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit, who lives in you. (BSB)

 

(John 7:37-39) – [37] On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and called out in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. [38] Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said: ‘Streams of living water will flow from within him.’” [39] He was speaking about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. For the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet been glorified. (BSB)

 

(John 4:10) – [10] Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God and who is asking you for a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” (BSB) (Revelation 22:1) – [1] Then he showed me the river of living water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. (HCSB)

 

As I mentioned, I plan to go into much greater detail in another study/post. But these are more than enough to demonstrate that the Scriptures reveal God as a Trinity. If someone is unable to see it and unwilling to accept it, it reveals that they’re still in total darkness, still blind to the truth and totally deceived, as the next passage reveals:

 

(1 John 4:6) – [6] We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. That is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. (BSB)

 

Someone who refuses to “listen to us,” reveals that they do not “know God.” It reveals that they do not have the “Spirit of truth.” The foundational teaching of Christianity is that God exists as a Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three Persons, but One God. If you remove one Person of the Trinity, God ceases to exist. Those who are “from God” (“belong to God” – NLT), will be able to see the truth about the nature (essence) of God. Above all things, first and foremost, the most important thing the Spirit of truth reveals to us, is who He is. Acceptance of this truth about God and about the message of Christ, are the two primary evidences that one has been born-again, and has the Spirit of truth indwelling them.

 

This brings us to an obvious question. How do we explain the reality that people can read or hear the same Scriptures, the same revelation about God, the same gospel message, and still never understand unto salvation, while others do? And how do we explain the reality that someone can be reared in a Christian home and in a Christian church, hearing the truth all their lives while growing up, perhaps embracing Christianity on a surface level (intellectually), just to eventually turn away from it for a different belief system—either for a different version of “Christianity,” such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, or for a completely different religion? Perhaps becoming false prophets, or even atheists? How do we explain it, while others grow up hearing and believing the same truths of Christianity, and clinging to it throughout their lives? What makes the difference?

 

The answer to those questions are found in one’s own heart. As I mentioned before, sinful pride is always involved when someone rejects the truth, for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pe 5:5; Ja 4:6). In their rebellious pride, they “suppress the truth by their unrighteousness” (Ro 1:18 – NET). A person may be sincere in their beliefs, sincere in seeking God and the truth, but sincerity does not mean the absence of pride. There is nothing more “unrighteous” than rejection of the truth because of a prideful unwillingness to believe what has been plainly revealed in the Scriptures by God Himself, and about Himself.  What Paul says next in Romans 1:19-23 is significant as it pertains to the next section:

 

(Romans 1:18-23) — [18] For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, [19] because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. [20] For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes-his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. [21] For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. [22] Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.  (NET)

 

Verses 21-23 brings us to the saddest story I know:

 

Saddest Story I Know

The story you’re about to read is what prompted this whole study. This is what the Lord used to move me to search the Scriptures more thoroughly about this subject. 

 

The passage above (Ro 1:18-23) is highly significant; it explains a lot. I happen to know someone who claims to be a Christian. He talks about Jesus, talks about God, wears his Jesus T-shirts, has been in small groups, serves in children’s ministries. He loves people, and people love him. Church people who don’t know what he believes, probably assume he’s a true Christian. However, his beliefs are not only very bizarre, but demonic—especially his beliefs about God. Although he lives a very moral life, his lifestyle is very strange—very extreme. This man grew up in a Christian environment, in a Christian church, learning about the Triune God. But somewhere along the line he began to doubt those teachings. His beliefs about God have evolved over the years, to the point where he has literally “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings.” While he believes there is one God who created all things, he also believes that all beings in the universe are, together, one God—this includes all “human beings,” all angels, as well as Satan and his demons. All of us, together, are one God in his view.

 

While we as true Christians believe that God exists as Three Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), he believes that God exists as trillions of persons (or whatever the number actually is). He believes that we all have the same essence of God, and that we have always existed as such. He believes that we are gods in this life, with limited power, but in the next life we will have all the glorious and powerful attributes of God (omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, etc.). In regard to Jesus, he believes that He has always existed in the same way that he believes we have always existed, in whatever form that was. He believes that somewhere in eternity, the Father re-designated (created Him into a different form) Jesus to be the Son of God. In other words, he doesn’t believe that Jesus has always existed as the Son of God. He puts Jesus on the same level as the rest of us. It’s just that, in his mind, the Father simply had a different plan for Jesus than He did for the rest of us.

 

And that’s just a sampling of what he believes. This man’s whole belief system is like science fiction.  He has literally created his own religion. Like all other cults that go under the banner of Christianity, he has just enough truth to fool people. He believes he’s hearing from God, but in truth, he’s hearing “deceiving spirits and demonic teachings” (1 Ti 4:1). The idea that someone can be in a born-again relationship with God and still believe in such a demonic belief system such as this man has, is completely out of harmony with such a relationship. 

 

This man is so firm in his beliefs about God and about our own “deity,” that he refuses to believe God’s own words about Himself. Over and over in the Old Testament, God makes plain statements about himself, especially in the book of Isaiah. For example:

 

(Isaiah 40:25) – [25] “To whom will you liken Me, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One. (BSB)

(Isaiah 42:8) – [8] I am the LORD; that is My name! I will not yield My glory to another or My praise to idols. (BSB)

(Isaiah 43:10) – [10] You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may consider and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, and after Me none will come. (BSB)

(Isaiah 44:6) – [6] Thus says the LORD, the King and Redeemer of Israel, the LORD of Hosts: “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God but Me(BSB)

 

There are many more statements like these in Isaiah by God Himself, revealing Himself as the one true God (Is 45:5,14,18,21,22; Is 46:5,9; Is 48:11; Is 64:4). I read these verses to this man, and yet, he refuses to believe what God Himself says about Himself. Of course, he justifies this by his belief that we are all (all beings), collectively, this one God. He believes that in the next life, we will be exactly like Him, being able to do all the same things He can do—in all His power and glory…..because in his mind, we ARE that one power and glory. It’s not enough for this man to merely worship and serve God. He wants what God has! He wants to share in His glory. As he put it, we should want to be like God. I can’t imagine a form of pride as offensive and serious as this (1 Pe 5:5). I believe this is precisely what prevents him from seeing the truth and coming to salvation in Christ.

 

Once a person refuses to believe the truth about God (especially what God Himself says about Himself), about who we are in our own distinct essence and who we are in God’s plan, it always leads to further demonic understandings about the Bible, the true Christian faith, and the way we’re to live as followers of Christ. Darkness begets darkness (just as light begets light). I’ll mention just two of those other beliefs this man has.

 

First, he believes that everyone gets saved, including Satan and all his demons. It doesn’t matter what a person believes—no one is left out, because he believes that the justice of God is history, that it no longer exists. He believes that mercy trumps judgment. He sees no proper balance between the two. In regard to all the passages in the Bible that speak of everlasting punishment, he believes God will change His mind, that truth is fluid, always changing. He scoffed at the idea that someone can be sincerely seeking God and truth (like Mormons, which is what we were talking about at the time), and still be eternally damned. However, again, sincerity doesn’t mean the absence of pride, or that sincerity overrides truth. 

 

Second, in regard to the Bible, he believes that the writers were just doing the best they could according to the understanding they had at the time. He believes they were still trying to figure it out  (I think he was referring primarily to the NT Scriptures at the time). Therefore, he doesn’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, per se, but merely contains the Word of God. He said that the only thing he accepts as the truth for sure, are the words of Jesus. But as for the rest of the Bible (especially the NT), as he’s reading, he prays about what’s true and what’s not true. He listens for God’s guidance. Thus, whether he realizes it or not, he opens himself up to deceiving voices, deceiving spirits (1 Tim 4:1). What he really ends up doing is accepting and interpreting according to whatever fits his belief system. He has no method of study or of interpretation. Hermeneutics are foreign to him. He just flies by the seat of his pants—whatever works for him.

 

In regard to the differences he has in his beliefs about God, and our beliefs about God as orthodox Christians, he believes it’s the same as believing differently about the doctrine of election, or some other lesser doctrine where we as Christians differ. But he couldn’t be further from the truth. That difference will separate him from God for all eternity.

 

I asked this man, “what are you going to do if you wake up on the other side of death and discover you were wrong, and go into eternity separated from God?” He replied, “I don’t think that’s even a possibility.” That’s how severe this man’s deception has become. 

 

I don’t know what this man’s judgment will be, but I do know that with much exposure to light and truth, comes great responsibility. I believe punishment will be less for those who had much less light and opportunity than he has had (Lu 12:46-47; Matt 11:20-24; Mk 12:38-40). And to be clear, this guy knows the Bible very well (knowledge does not equal understanding), and goes to a good church regularly. He’s a great guy and loves people, but that won’t do him any good when he stands before Christ. I’m truly heartbroken about what he believes and refuses to believe, but his own prideful heart condemns him (Matt 12:33-37). He could have chosen the way of truth when the light of truth was still shinning brightly. But he rejected it for a dark belief system of his own design. God’s judgment is just. No one ever goes into everlasting punishment who doesn’t deserve it. For those who have unbelieving friends or loved ones, God gives us grace to deal with it in this life, and in the next life He’ll wipe away all our tears (Rev 21:4). I believe that means, it will be forgotten, wiped from our memory. 

 

We Must Believe in the True God

So why is all this so important? Why do I bring in the discussion about this man and his beliefs about God? Because this is one of two doctrines we cannot get wrong (the other is the doctrine of salvation). Our understanding about God must be correct, or we will be incorrect forever (in separation from the one true God)—especially when it’s on the extreme level as this man’s understanding. He’s the perfect example of what happens when someone rejects the truth about God. It can only lead a person further and further away from the truth and away from God. This man literally will not listen to anyone. Nobody! He believes he has, perhaps, a deeper understanding than everyone who identifies with historical, orthodox Christianity. He believes that the rest of us are in “kindergarten” in our understanding. He actually told me that. He believes we’ve been wrong for 2000 years! Again, I can’t imagine a pride greater than this. The Apostle John spoke of such a person:

 

(1 John 4:6) – [6] We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. That is how we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception. (BSB)

 

(1 John 4:6) – [6] But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception. (NLT)

 

This man I’ve been talking about, he refuses to consider anything anyone tells Him about the beliefs of orthodox Christianity, especially as it relates to God and salvation. That fact makes it clear that he “is not from God.” In other words, he “does not belong to God.” There’s no way we can come to any other conclusion. Can such a person return to a true understanding about God? Can such a person who has made his own beliefs the standard of truth, ever regain the required humility to see the actual truth and experience true salvation in Christ? Can someone who was taught the truths of Christianity and about God Himself – then to forsake those teachings – ever return from that? Based on my understanding of Hebrews 6:4-6, it does not appear so (a discussion/post for another time). I believe what Jesus describes in Matthew 12:43-45, is true of this man: his “last state has become worst than the first.”

 

That this man’s “state has become worst than the first” is apparent—because the more I present him with the truth about God, using God’s own words, the more defiant and firm he becomes in his beliefs. The blindness and hardness appears to be getting deeper and stronger (Jn 12:39-40). Blindness only comes after continuous rejection of the truth, especially if it’s gone on for many years, as in this case. In addition, in the beginning years as his beliefs were evolving, he seemed to lack joy and peace. But as he has become more and more settled in his belief system, the more peace and joy he exhibits. That’s actually both alarming and frightening. Because it’s evidence that darkness has completely overtaken him (Jn 12:35), that he has settled into his belief system, and is now at peace about it. The lack of evidence of conviction is a serious concern. He has spent many years systematically discarding the truth, while accepting the lies of Satan. Darkness only becomes darker, while the light of truth only gets dimmer and dimmer. That’s why it’s so important to believe in the light while the light is still shining (Jn 12:35-36). The day may come when the light can no longer be seen at all—the point of no return (Jn 12:39-40). As much as it saddens my heart, all indications are, that’s where this man is now. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. Nothing would give me greater joy than to see him come to the truth and to see his life miraculously changed by the true Christ, the true God.

 

That’s why people in cults (like Mormonism, JW), who have a false understanding about God, remain in their religion of twisted beliefs—they refuse to believe the truth about God. Once a person rejects the truth, they have nowhere else to go but to that which is false. However, many do escape (having grown up learning only the false beliefs of their religion), and begin to see God for who He is, and become true believers in the true God and the true Christ. From that point on, their whole belief system changes, and lines up with the teachings of true Christianity.

 

Faith always has an object. Therefore, the object of our faith must be with a correct understanding of who it is we’re placing our faith in. Nowhere is this so important than as it applies to Jesus and salvation in Him. To be clear, many new believers have very little understanding about Jesus and the Christian faith. What they hear is that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and if we trust in Him as our Savior, we will have forgiveness of our sins and eternal life in His presence. And that’s fine. That’s all that’s necessary.

 

However, that does not apply to people who know a lot about the teachings of the Christian faith, who have spent a lot of time reading and studying the Bible, who have spent years going to church and hearing the truth taught there. This is typical of people who have grown up in a Christian church and a Christian home, who were taught about the Triune God and the other doctrines of Christianity. Many of those may have made a profession of faith in Christ, but later in life rejected what they were taught—thus, proving that their faith in Jesus was merely intellectual, and didn’t come from the heart, where salvation occurs (Ro 10:8-10). When a person grows up learning that there is one God, existing in three Persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), but later on comes to accept a different understanding about God, and that Jesus is a created being, the object of their faith completely changes. Because, in their understanding, Jesus is not a part of the eternal Triune God, which results in a god that does not exist. Because if one member of the Trinity is removed, God ceases to exist. What’s even worse is to believe that God exists in the form of all beings of the universe. Just because someone uses the Bible to come to their twisted understanding, and refers to the God and the Jesus of the Bible (like the cults do), doesn’t mean they’re believing in the true God. 

 

Therefore, that person’s faith in Jesus is invalid, because he or she is putting their faith in a false version of who He really is. They have rejected what they were taught about Jesus, about the Triune God, for a false version of Him.

 

We Don’t Get To Decide Who God Is

So important is it that we have a proper understanding of who Jesus is, of who God is, that Jesus Himself had a lot to say about it. What we’re going to find out is that it’s God Himself who reveals the truth about Himself to us. We’ll start with this statement:

 

(John 8:24) — [24] That is why I told you that you would die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  (BSB).

 

What does Jesus mean by “unless you believe that I am He?” When we study the immediate and overall context of the book of John, we know that Jesus is referring to the fact that He is the God of Israel, the one they claim to believe in. How do we know this? For starters, the word “He” is not in the original Greek. Thus, what the Greek actually says is “unless you believe that I AM.” Even if the Greek suggests “I am He” (Jn 8:24), we have other validating statements by Jesus to show us that He was revealing Himself as the God of Israel (Ex 3:14). That Jesus was revealing Himself as the God they worshiped is made even more clear when we consider what Jesus said about Himself leading into verse 24. I’ll put the two verses together:

 

(John 8:23-24) – [23] Jesus replied, “You people are from below; I am from above. You people are from this world; I am not from this world. [24] Thus I told you that you will die in your sins. For unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.” (NET)

 

Let’s consider what Jesus could have been talking about when He said that He was “from above” and that He was “not from this world.”  First, all human beings are from this world. No human being is from above. Yet, Jesus makes it clear that His origin is from above—a clear reference to Heaven. If that wasn’t clear enough for them, Jesus removes all doubt that He was referring to Heaven in the next verses:

 

(John 8:25-26,28) – [25] So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus replied, “What I have told you from the beginning. [26] I have many things to say and to judge about you, but the Father who sent me is truthful, and the things I have heard from him I speak to the world.” [28] Then Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak just what the Father taught me.  (NET)

 

Jesus refers to the fact that the “Father sent Him.” The Jews understood the Father as referring to God. That’s made clear in John 8:41 (also Jn 14:8-9). And now Jesus is claiming to come from the Father (also Jn 8:42). He strengthens that fact by saying “the things I have heard from Him, I speak to the world.” In other words, Jesus is referring to the things that He heard from the Father in His presence, the place of His origin. Then Jesus says that “when you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM he.” Again, “he” after “I AM” is not in the Greek, restating the fact that He is the “I AM” of Israel.

 

Up to this point we see that Jesus has been building upon this idea that He is the I AM of Israel—the very God they claimed to worship. But if that still wasn’t clear enough to these particular Jews, Jesus removes all doubt in verse 58:

 

(John 8:58) – “[58] Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I AM!” (BSB)

 

This was an obvious reference to Exodus 3:14, where God revealed Himself as “I AM.” Therefore, if they didn’t understand what Jesus was saying leading up to this point, He made it clear to them here. However, so clear did they understand what Jesus was saying, that they picked up stones to put Him to death, which is what the law requires for blasphemy (Lev 24:16). They most certainly understood that He was claiming to be the God of Israel (YHWH – “Yahweh”) who revealed Himself to Moses and to the people of Israel at that time. Therefore, I will restate what Jesus was actually saying in John 8:24:

 

“For unless you believe that I am He [the God of Israel], you will die in your sins.”

 

Jesus certainly revealed Himself as the Messiah and the Savior of the world. But in the overall context of John 8:24, it was all about His oneness with the Father as the Son of God (Jn 8:36,49, 53-54)—as the very God of Israel. In John 10:36, Jesus plainly says that He is “the Son of God.” Furthermore, the Jews understood that He was claiming to be the Son of God (Jn 19:7). What we need to understand is that Jesus revealed Himself to be both the Son of God and the God of Israel. This is important because it reveals that the Father and the Son are one. To claim to be the Son of God is to claim to be God Himself. God exists as a Trinity—as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is revealed in many many places throughout the NT, as discussed earlier. In John 8 the focus is on the Father and the Son.

 

Unless you missed it, or forgot the point of all this, Jesus makes it clear that when He presents Himself to a sinner as the Son of God, or as God Himself, they must believe it in order to be saved:

 

“For unless you believe that I am He [the God of Israel], you will die in your sins.”

 

Jesus told the Jews that unless they believed that He was the God of Israel, they would die in their sins. Meaning, they would die without God, separated from God forever. Why is it so important to believe this? Because, again, faith must have an object. Our faith in God must be in the God He reveals Himself to be. Jesus came to reveal Himself to Israel as the God they worshiped. To reject Jesus as their God, was to reject the God they claimed to believe in. Likewise, with all that the Bible reveals about God – especially the NT – to reject what’s so clearly revealed about Him, is to reject God Himself. When the Deity of Christ is taught, and the Trinity of God is taught, those who hear are at that point accountable to believe what they’ve been taught. One can erroneously make the argument that someone can have a false understanding of who Jesus is and who God is, and still be granted salvation in Christ, just as long as they believe in the Jesus and the God of the Bible….whatever their interpretation of God may be!

 

However, that idea is proven false by the words of Jesus Himself in John 8. Let’s go over this again. Could not the Jews make that same argument as the one above? Yes. In fact, that’s exactly what the they did. Their understanding was that God is one God, and that God is a spirit (the Spirit of God; Spirit of the LORD). This was the God they believed in, or claimed to believe in. To bring Jesus into their understanding of who God is, brought confusion and disbelief among those who were not actually true believers. They had an intellectual belief, but their heart was far from Him (Mk 7:6). But again, couldn’t they make the argument that they believed in the God of Israel, without believing in Jesus as the God of Israel, and still get saved? No. Jesus squashed that false notion in His discussion with these Jews, which included religious leaders. Jesus said that “if you knew Me, you would know My Father also (Jn 8:19; Jn 14:7). He also said that “anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9). To know the one is to know the other. To believe in the one is to believe in the other. We cannot believe in one without believing in the other. It requires that we believe that Jesus is who He claimed to be—the Son of God—the very God of Israel. Those who were true believers in God under the Old Covenant, also believed in Jesus, because God revealed Himself to them in Jesus. God enabled them to hear the voice of the Father in the words of His Son. They were drawn to the Son just as they were drawn to the Father. Those who rejected Jesus, proved themselves to be unbelievers, regardless of their claims otherwise.

 

The point of all this is that the Jews had a correct understanding of the one true God under the Old Covenant. They responded to the light that was given to them. They believed according to what was revealed to them at the time. When Jesus came along, their understanding of God was broadened. Under the Old Covenant, the Jews understood God to be one God, in the form of the Father and as the Spirit of God. When Jesus revealed Himself to Israel, their understanding of the one God was broadened to include Jesus as the Son of God (Jn 14:5-11). Also, in many other places in the gospels, as well as throughout the NT, the Holy Spirit is revealed to be a part of this one God, who is revealed as a Trinity—three Persons, one God. The Jews of Jesus’ day could not continue to hold onto their OT understanding of the nature of God. It now must include Jesus if their understanding of God was to be complete. Not to believe in Jesus would have resulted in eternal condemnation (Jn 3:18).

 

Again, the Jews could have made the argument that they believed in the one true God, as revealed to them in the OT Scriptures, as well as the historical knowledge they had of their God. They could have said, “we have believed as You instructed us, and so this Jesus must be an imposter, a false teacher, a blasphemer.” This was actually the response of many who claimed to believe in God. But this was unacceptable to God. Our faith must be in the God whom He has revealed Himself to be. When Jesus began His ministry, the true believers in God were enabled to to hear the voice of their God in Jesus, which resulted in faith in Him. Every true believing Jew was drawn to the Son, just as they were drawn to the Father—all of them (Jn 6.37-45).

 

Likewise, those today who are taught the true nature or essence of God, that God exists as a Trinity, must believe this about Him in order to be saved. They are, at that point, accountable to believe it. The believing Jews of Jesus’ day is our example and pattern for believing unto salvation. We don’t get to Heaven by having different ideas about God. We don’t get to Heaven by believing things about God according to what seems right to us……just like we don’t get to Heaven by having different ideas about the way of salvation. These two doctrines go hand in hand.

 

When God calls us to Himself, He opens our eyes to His true nature, His true essence. We don’t get to decide who God is in our own understanding. We don’t even have to! It’s God Himself who reveals Himself to us. The Jews who had a true and humble heart before God, were enabled to see the light and truth that is in Jesus. God opened their eyes to who He is. For someone to hear the teachings of the Christian faith today, especially as it pertains to the true nature of God, and rejects these teachings, reveals an absence of the new-birth. It reveals an absence of the Spirit of truth (Jn 14:17; Jn 15:26; 1 Jn 4:6). Everyone who hears the truth about Jesus, about who God is, with a humble and receptive heart, will be given the grace to understand and believe. Those who refuse to believe that God exists as a Trinity when it’s been taught to them, reveals a rebellious heart of pride, whom God opposes—for “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pe 5:5).

 

In the case of the person I talked about earlier, for him, as I said before, it’s not enough for him to simply believe in God, to worship God. He wants to be God! He believes he is God. He wants to share in His glory, this same glory that God said He would share with no one!  If someone claims to believe in Jesus, but rejects the teachings about God as a Triune God, as revealed in the Scriptures, they cannot be saved. It’s evidence that they have not been enlightened about who Jesus is and about who God is. It’s evidence they do not have the “Spirit of truth.” It’s evidence they have not been born-again. Those people are in the same boat as the Jews of Jesus’ day who claimed to believe in God, but didn’t accept the fuller revelation of God in Christ when it was presented to them. That’s why Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am He (the God of Israel), you will die in your sins” (Jn 8:24).

 

Just as the Jews of Jesus’ day were accountable to believe in the fuller revelation about God (as Jesus revealed about Himself), so are people today accountable to believe in the fuller revelation of God as revealed in the NT Scriptures and taught by Christian Bible teachers. This full revelation of the NT Scriptures is something that the people of Jesus’ day didn’t have. Therefore, with much light comes much accountability. Those who are of the light, will believe the light about God. Jesus Himself is the Light of the world (Jn 1:9; Jn 8:12). Thus, when Jesus reveals Himself to someone, people will recognize Him for who He is. When God opens the eyes of a sinner about Christ and salvation in Him, He opens their eyes to the truth about Himself. If they’re taught that Jesus is the Son of God, they will believe it. If they’re taught that God exists as a Trinity, they will believe it. 

 

When the truth about God and about salvation is presented, it must be believed. If a person rejects these truths, salvation is denied. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about the death and resurrection of Christ, and life in Him. It’s about Jesus Himself. We cannot be wrong about either. When the light of Christ shines on a sinner, they will see Him for who He is. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:

 

“[4] The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. [5] For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (BSB)

 

I want to zero in on the phrase “the gospel of the glory of Christ.” If we’re not reading carefully, it’s easy to miss the significance of what Paul says here. We talk about the gospel of Christ, or the good news about Jesus and salvation through Him. That’s something that’s common and something we’re very familiar with. But here Paul refers to the gospel as not “the gospel of Christ,” but as “the gospel of the glory of Christ.” This means that those who hear gospel message with humble and receptive hearts, will be granted eyes to see and and a heart to believe the glory of Christ—which refers to His nature, to who He is in His essence. Notice the rest of the sentence:

 

“who is the image of God” 

 

The “glory of Christ” is directly associated with the “image of God.” In other words, the glory of Christ is the glory of God (He 1:3). They share the same glory, which reveals Christ as God. It also reveals God in His true nature, who He really is. Therefore, as the gospel message is being presented, if sinners are told that Jesus is the Son of God, they will believe it. If they’re told that God exists as a Trinity, and that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, they will believe it. Whatever truth is conveyed about Jesus and about God, they will be granted the grace to believe it. Just as God must open our eyes to our sinfulness and need for Christ as Savior, just as God must give us understanding about the message about Christ, so must He also open our eyes to Himself—to the One who is offering salvation. Verse 6 confirms what we’re saying here:

 

(2 Cor 4:6) – [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

 

Before we come to faith in Christ, before the light of Christ has shined upon us, we are in total darkness—blinded by sin and blinded by Satan (2 Cor 4:4). But at the point of conversion, in our darkness, God causes “His light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” That means we’re given the grace to see the glory of God in Christ. This glory refers to His true essence. We’re given the “knowledge” about who God really is. Paul says something similar in Ephesians 5:14:

 

(Ephesians 5:14) – [14] So it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (BSB)

 

When Christ shines His light in our deadness of sins, He shines the light of who He really is, not our own ideas about who He is. God reveals the truth about Himself both at the point of salvation, as well as, after we’ve experienced salvation. For someone to claim to be a Christian, but doesn’t believe the truth about God, reveals that they didn’t believe it when they claimed to receive Christ, or afterwards.

 

Therefore, it’s just not possible for someone to be born-again and still not see the light and glory of God in Christ. It’s not possible for someone to meet Jesus, and see a false version of Him. That’s not the way this works. He reveals Himself as He is. For someone to claim to be a Christian, but refuses to believe the truth about who God is –  year after year – is clear evidence their eyes have not been opened to the truth about God. And as discussed earlier, it reveals that there’s something wrong with the person’s own heart, and it’s sinful pride that is always at the center of that.

 

We could stop here and it would be enough. However, there are many corroborating Scriptures that we can look at that will settle any questions one might still have. That’s what we’ll do next.

 

Corroborating Scriptures

(1 John 5:20) – [20] And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true—in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (BSB)

 

Along with 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, this is one of the the most significant passages in the Bible as it pertains to our discussion. It doesn’t get any clearer than this. Jesus Himself has given us “understanding” to know the true God, the true nature of God, and that Jesus is God. Notice that John associates knowing the one true God with “eternal life.” To know (believe in, accept) God is to have eternal life. For He Himself is our life. We cannot deny who He has revealed Himself to be, and experience eternal life. To know the one true God is to have eternal life. The one true God is a Triune God. This is who He has revealed Himself to be. Thus, to know the true God is to have the “understanding” that He is a Triune God, and not some false idea about Him.

 

It’s not that we know all about God when the gospel of Christ is shared with us, but if whatever truths we’re told about God, we’ll believe it. We may not understand it, but we’re given the grace to believe whatever light is given to us about God.

 

(Matthew 11:27) – [27] All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him(BSB)

 

This is highly significant! Jesus says that “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.” It’s that same knowledge about each other that is “revealed” to us, both at conversion when we receive Christ as our Savior, and afterwards. When we come to faith in Christ, He reveals the true God to us. He opens our eyes to His true nature. Jesus is not going to reveal a false understanding about Himself, because by definition, “understanding” (1 Jn 5:20) in the Scriptures only apply to a true understanding, that which is correct.

 

(John 1:18) – [18] No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him. (CSB)

 

This is much like the previous verse (Matt 11:27). What’s said there can be applied here. 

 

(John 14:21) – [21] Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.” (BSB)

 

Those who love Jesus will walk in obedience. Not perfectly, of course, but those who are born-again and indwelt by the Spirit of truth, will live according to their new nature, which is always Godward. We will always be inclined toward God and to living for Him. Thus, it’s to us that Jesus reveals Himself to. When Jesus reveals Himself to us, He reveals Himself to us as He is, as the Scriptures reveal Himself to be. 

 

(John 14:23) – [23] Jesus replied, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him(BSB)

 

Here, Jesus refers to two Persons of the Trinity: Father and Son. To believe in the Son is to believe in the Father. To keep the Word of the Son is to is to keep the Word of the Father. To be loved by the Son is to be loved by the Father. When the Son makes His home with us, so does the Father. To make their home with us describes a very intimate relationship that we have with God. It’s to know Him on a deep level. To have this type of “in-home” relationship is to know Him for who He is.

 

(John 17:3) – [3] Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. (BSB)

 

To “know” the “true God” is to have “eternal life.” To have “eternal life” is to “know” the “true God.” Our salvation is always associated with the true God, having an understanding of the true God. 

 

(John 17:6) – [6] I have revealed Your name to those You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours; You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. (BSB)

 

When Jesus refers to “Your name,” He’s not talking about what God’s name is. He’s referring to who God Himself is, as the NLT states more clearly:

 

(John 17:6) – [6] I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. (NLT)

 

Believer’s Bible Commentary:

“Jesus had manifested the Father’s name to the disciples. The “name” in Scripture means the Person, His attributes, and character. Christ had fully declared the Father’s true nature.”

 

It’s the true God that Jesus revealed to His disciples. We see that clearly stated in John 14:6-11. Their eyes were further opened when they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, which is also true of all believers from that day forward, to be indwelt by the Spirit of truth forever.

 

(John 17:26) – [26] And I have made Your name known to them and will continue to make it known, so that the love You have for Me may be in them, and I in them.” (BSB)

 

This is much the same as the previous verse (Jn 17:6), except here Jesus says that He “will continue to make it known.” He doesn’t mean that He will continue to merely make it known in all the same ways, but will cause our understanding of God to grow. Paul prayed this very thing for the believers in Ephesians 1:17 and Colossians 1:10:

 

(Ephesians 1:17) – [17] I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge of him, [18] – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you can know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  (NET)

(Colossians 1:10) – [10] so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, (BSB)

 

The first thing we see here is that God gives us “spiritual wisdom and revelation,” with an emphasis on the “revelation” God gives to us about Himself. That He reveals Himself to us is made clear here. Our understanding about God continues to grow as we continue to learn. Which means that our understanding about God cannot and will not become confused, and more confused. Light begets more light. Truth begets more truth. As we study the Word of God — as those who are indwelt by the Spirit of truth — we can only grow more and more in true knowledge and understanding. The idea that a true born-again believer can study God’s Word regularly, year after year, only to see their understanding about God become more and more twisted, makes absolutely no sense. It runs contrary to everything that that’s revealed in Scripture about the truth and light regarding God, about progressive understanding, and about what regeneration does for us.

 

Knowledge about God is progressive as we stay in the Word. As we search the Scriptures over the years, our understanding about God can only increase, not reverse directions—especially if it results in a distorted understanding of the nature of God, where they no longer see God as a Triune God. If that ever happens to anyone, then they they don’t know Jesus, and never did. 

 

(1 Peter 1:20-21) – [20] He was known before the foundation of the world, but was revealed in the last times for your sake. [21] Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him; and so your faith and hope are in God. (BSB)

 

Jesus was “revealed” to the world as one of us. We believe in God through Jesus, because Jesus revealed God in His person. He is God in the flesh. There is no knowing God apart from Jesus. Jesus came to reveal Himself to Israel as the God of Israel. Israel believes in one God. Therefore, when Jesus identified Himself as their God, their understanding about the one God was expanded. They are our example. Just as true believers in God in Jesus’ day would be granted this understanding, so it is still true today. Those who come to faith in Christ are granted an understanding about the nature of God, when the truth about God is taught to them. 

 

(1 John 1:1-2) – [1] We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. [2] This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. (NLT)

 

Jesus, who was with the Father in Heaven, came to earth to reveal God to us. Being with the Father implies oneness with the Father. Therefore, when Jesus was revealed, it was God He was revealing. He did not and will not reveal a false understanding about God.

 

(Colossians 2:2-3) – [2] that they may be encouraged in heart, knit together in love, and filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, [3] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (BSB)

 

Understanding, wisdom and knowledge about God and His redemptive plan all come via Christ, who is the fulfillment of God’s plan. Jesus reveals the glory of God and His purposes. In Him our eyes are opened to the truth, especially to the truth about who God is. To know Christ is to know God. This is basic and foundational to our understanding of everything else regarding the doctrines of Christianity.

 

(Luke 8:18) – [18] So listen carefully, for whoever has will be given more, but whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (NET)

 

Jesus instructs us to “listen carefully.” We must receive the truth with a humble and receptive heart. When we do, we’re granted an understanding of the truth, and that includes the truth about who God is, who Jesus is. When we respond to what the Holy Spirit reveals to us, we’re given more truth and understanding. When we respond to the light given to us, God gives us more light. Light begets light.

 

On the other hand, those who do not receive the truth and light with humble and receptive hearts, whatever they thought we had, will be taken away. In other words, rendered useless. They will stand before God empty-handed, and eternally lost.

 

(Colossians 1:12-13) – [12] giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. [13] He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, (BSB)

 

Here we see that before we came to faith in Christ, we dwelt in the “domain of darkness.” We were unable to see the light—only darkness. At conversion, God revealed His light to us, and we now dwell in the “Kingdom of His Beloved Son,” which is a kingdom of light, as the context makes clear. As those who dwell in the light of God’s presence, we can only see God as He is — not in His full glory, which we won’t experience until the next life (Rev 22:5) — but what He does reveal to us, is the truth…..which is made clear to us in His Written Word. What is made clear is that God exists as a Trinity—nothing less, nothing more. 

 

(Ephesians 5:8-9) – [8] For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light, [9] for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.  (BSB)

 

When we were in darkness, we did not and could not have an understanding about God or the way of life until He revealed it to us when we trusted Christ. Now as children of light (Jn 12:36; 1 Th 5:5), we see light. The fruit of light (the fruit of salvation) allows us to see the “truth” about God. It does not lead us to a false understanding about Him. As a “child of light,” as “light in the Lord,” it’s inconsistent and out of harmony to have a dark understanding about God.

 

(1 Timothy 6:14-16) – [14] Keep this commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, [15] which the blessed and only Sovereign One—the King of kings and Lord of lords—will bring about in His own time. [16] He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (BSB)

 

This “unapproachable light” refers to the full glory of God. None of us in our current body and life is able to look upon God in all His glory. However, just as He did with Isaiah (Is 6:5) – which this passage in 1 Timothy may be alluding to – God gives His redeemed a glimpse of His glory. As children of light, we see His light, in whom “there is no darkness at all” — which brings us to our final passage:

 

(1 John 1:5-6) – [5] And this is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. (BSB)

 

God is light! Furthermore, there is not one shade of darkness in Him. God is pure light. Therefore, when God reveals Himself to us, He can only reveal His true self. As children of light, as those who dwell in the kingdom of light (Col 1:12-13), we cannot walk away with a dark understanding about God. Darkness always refers to the kingdom of darkness, which has to do with demonic teachings. As children of God, we are children of light. Of all people, God reveals the light about Himself to us. If someone claims to be a Christian, but has a dark and twisted understanding about God, it’s clear evidence they do not belong to Jesus. They still dwell in the kingdom of darkness. Being in the light, we see light. Being in the light, we see the light of God. Those who are in darkness, see darkness. They are unable to see the light of God.

 

A false understanding about God is the primary evidence of the absence of the new-birth and an absence of the Spirit of Truth.

 

  Conclusion

What I’ve written here are some hard truths, probably difficult for many to read. So why, then, did I write it? Because truth matters. In a day of shallow, false teaching, it’s important to reveal the truth and expose the false. It matters who we believe God is. It matters just as much as what we believe about the way of salvation. It’s also important that we don’t allow ourselves to be deceived by people who profess Christ, but are exposed for who they really are by their false beliefs—no matter how moral they may be. We can’t allow ourselves to be fooled by the argument that sincerity matters, when humility before God matters more. The two are not mutually inclusive. Sincerity can be drowning in pride. Pride is what God hates most, because pride is always self-focused instead of God-focused. It’s the very thing that keeps us blind to the truth and from faith in Christ. True humility before God recognizes Him for who He is, and who we are in relation to Him. It never sees ourselves as His equal. That is the ultimate in sinful pride. That we can be God’s equal, in all His glorious attributes, is a lie from Satan.

 

I also wrote this because this is a subject that doesn’t get much attention in our churches—which bewilders me, because there is no other doctrine more important than the doctrine of God. All our churches should be teaching this. Our position on this doctrine is foundational to Christianity. The doctrine of God and the doctrine of salvation are directly linked, which was the focus of this study. This too should be taught in our churches. It’s a reminder to me personally, that I need to get a more thorough study of the Trinity posted on this website. I touched on it here, but more needs to be said about each of the Three Persons of the Trinity. I should have done this a long time ago. So I’m just as guilty as anyone for neglecting it for so long.

 

The story of the man I talked about here is not only exceedingly sad, but has been very educational for me. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve watched this person over the past decade drift more and more into darkness, even though he has spent a lot of time reading and studying the Bible and going to Christian churches. When someone drifts from the truth in the extreme that he has, it’s startling. And it’s never God’s fault. We can never pin it on God, who is always ready to respond to a heart of humility and faith. The dramatic change in this man has been so severe, I believe it needed to be talked about. People need to be aware of what can happen in a person’s life in the context of Christianity. Darkness, light and the human heart are so intertwined, that he stands as an example of how one can go in either direction, even if one has grown up in a Christian environment. The kingdom of Satan and the kingdom of darkness is always working against the Kingdom of Christ and the Kingdom of Light. Each kingdom is always working to draw sinners in their direction.

 

Contrary to Calvinist teaching (what I used to believe), people are not left to the sovereign will of God to change them. Although God does provide the enabling grace, everyone is not only personally accountable to God, but personally responsible to respond to the light and truth that is in Christ according to their own will. Should this man die in his sins, it will not be because God did not shine His light and truth upon him. It will be because he didn’t respond to it in humble faith. The human heart is complex beyond our understanding. Why one responds in humility, while another responds in pride, is not only beyond our understanding, but out of our control. We simply have to leave it in the Lord’s hands. The best we can do is present the truth, pray that God will soften and influence their hearts, and ask God to get them to a place of crisis (a turning point), where they’re most open to listening to the truth and better able to be received. If they still don’t listen and respond in the humility of true faith, there’s nothing else we can do, but rest in God.

 

This serves to make us aware of how important it is to never assume that people in our churches are true born-again believers in Christ, until you know what they actually believe. That’s the big tell. This is especially important because of the damage a false teacher can do in a Christian assembly (if they’re spreading their beliefs). That goes double for pastors who fall into that same category. Make a point to always know what your pastor believes. 

 

There’s always more that can be said when it comes to theology. That’s why we have large books on them. However, what’s been presented here is sufficient for its purpose.

 

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