The Arrogance of Man
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1979
Edited and expanded by David Sielaff, June 2009
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Commentary for June 2009
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The arrogance of man refers to the haughtiness of mankind, the human species. When we look at ourselves we have to recognize that we have a great deal of this particular virtue or vice, however you want to look at it. There is a reason why all of us humans feel so important. When each of us looks around us in the world we see no living creatures higher on the biological scale of development than ourselves. When I talk about the biological scale of development, I am not talking about evolution. I do not believe in the evolutionary theory. That is what it is, a theory. It cannot be proved and it is not fact in my judgment.
When we look around us in creation and consider all the animate beings, there are none higher on the biological scale than ourselves. That is a proper appraisal especially when we look at ourselves on the scale of academic and psychological development. We are more understanding of things than a dog or an ape or a cow or even an ass. Sometimes Balaam’s ass might come along and be a little better (Numbers 22:21–35), but you know what I mean. That was a spiritual thing on that occasion.
The fact is, compared to the animal world we are far superior and rightly so. We are the top creation of God on the earth. The way we look at it we think that the earth has been made primarily for our existence so we can have a habitation to do what we think God wants us to do. There is nothing wrong with that appraisal because the Bible itself would demonstrate that we are the highest creatures. Adam was created in the image of God, and whether we are male or female we still are in the image of God. 1 So when we understand that, the result of being the apex of earthly creation has a tendency to give us a great deal of arrogance, a feeling of superiority. Sometimes we express haughtiness about the whole thing. Look at us. We are human. We are the best. We have something to give that no one else can give. That is one reason why we naturally express a sense of superiority and an importance about ourselves. Though we recognize there are some limitations, still we carry on our shoulders this idea of being arrogant. 2
The limitations that we have, though, ought to bring down our esteem. How many of us have never been sick a day in his or her life? Hardly any of us. We get sick. We certainly get older every day do we not? We come to our prime about thirty or thirty-five and then we begin to go downhill physically. What happens finally is that we all die. 3
No person has lived forever in the physical frame. We all die. Even the strongest men and women of the past have died and we are all on the same path. Each one of us has been given the sentence of death. The Bible itself says that it is appointed once for man to die and then comes the judgment. So we get sick, we get older, we die, we cannot stop the process of aging, but look at us, we are still haughty. We still have pride and we still have arrogance. We have our feelings of grandeur.
We even think to take this pride and these feelings beyond the grave. By that I mean none of us are beyond the grave yet, but we all feel we will somehow survive the grave. Most people do feel that way. Most of us with a Christian background certainly have felt (and rightly so as a matter of fact) that we will survive the grave. 4
Most human beings do feel that they will have a survival beyond the grave. Now we do not know how that will occur unless we have revelation about that. In the New Testament we do have revelation through Jesus Christ and the apostles telling us about the life beyond the grave. We are thankful for that. As a matter of fact I believe that, and I believe that very strongly. But even if I did not have the New Testament revelation to tell me these things, I still feel as a human being that there would be something in the back of my mind that would tell me I could have an existence beyond the grave.
I do not know how any animal (and I am not an animal in that sense, none of us is) would feel about the matter. I do not know if they even have the mental power to even conceive of a life beyond the grave. 5 But as far as we are concerned, we have that potential, and indeed we think of it lots of the time, most of the time. We who believe in the Bible would not even be here listening to this lecture or studying the Bible unless we had a supreme feeling and confidence that there was something beyond this life here.
When we look at the lives we have, we do not have perfection. We have loneliness. We have disappointments. We have frustrations. I am talking about Ernest Martin as well as every single one of you. None of us have our perfection yet. We are looking for something better to come, and almost all of us look beyond the grave. Whether we have the Bible or not, we as humans, because we have the minds that we do and the capabilities of reasoning that we do, have this thought of grandeur, that we not only have an existence here, but for all time to come. We are so haughty that we believe we will live for all time to come.
Will we, or will we not? The Bible says it will occur. I ask this question, can we through our own haughtiness and arrogance assume eternal life? Is it all dependent upon us? Are we so superior that no matter what happens we will live for all eternity?
Mankind has the feeling that they are going to exist someway, somehow. Most people do. Some do not. Most people feel they shall live forever, and in fact, destiny itself seems to be centered upon us. Some of us feel we can lift ourselves up to a spiritual level that can bring us to the station to be like God, and that no matter what happens, one way or another God and ourselves will be on the same plane at some future time, and we will have an eternal or an everlasting existence in a spiritual domain with Him. Though we want these things, are our beliefs reliable if they come without divine revelation, or without someone to help us to be the eternal beings that we want to be? Can we do it on our own? Or, will we have eternal life simply because of who we are without the help of somebody else. 6
In many cases humans feel we have eternal life already. Some feel that we have an immortal soul, that we cannot die. The physical human frame may pass away, that is quite true, but as far as the spiritual side of life, it will continue forever. That is the doctrine of the immortal soul. I do not believe it personally. The Bible does not support it either. Never mind, most people in the world believe in it. They cannot help but believe in it. Why do they do so? It is because of their own arrogance. It is because of the feeling of superiority and haughtiness and pride that they have about themselves. Of all of God’s creations, I know of none that has more pride than the human race.
We might think of angels having pride, that is quite true, but as far as you and I are concerned, we have not seen many angels. 7 But I have seen many humans and I have seen this guy looking in a mirror several times. I am a nice guy, but I am not sure I like what I see all the time. At the same time, deep in my heart I feel that I must be pretty important, I have got to be. You too, don’t you? So we express arrogance, thinking that we might be able to have a life for all eternity. Let me tell you this: of ourselves it is complete and utter nonsense. Of ourselves, according to the biblical revelation and even common sense if we think about it, we are no more likely than a dog or a horse or a cow or anything else to have eternal life beyond the grave unless we get help. Indeed, we need lots of help.
What we need to do in our arrogance is to ask ourselves a few questions. Maybe the esteem that we have may not be as high if we just think of ourselves in a proper way. We might not be so arrogant. I ask this question of us all: how many of us can absolutely state that you decided to come into this world when you did? Did you decide that you wanted to be born in the United States at a particular year, at a particular time, of a particular race, of a particular belief, in a particular geographical area, to particular parents chosen by you?
I am being silly, I know it, but in a sense I am not. We ought to think on these things. How many of us have decided when we were to come into this world to begin with in a physical sense? I do not know of a single one of us that has. There are some religious denominations who have said we had previous existences. The Mormons say that. I think there are quite a number of others. They believe that we had something to say, to a certain extent, of when we came in, where we came in, how we come in, how we look to a certain extent, whether we have black skin, green skin, polka dot skin or whatever. It does not make any difference. Some actually feel that way.
There is no evidence whatever in the Scripture that we have had any thing to do with our birth, who our parents were, how we look, whether we have good teeth, bad teeth, type of skin, or whatever, I do not know of any evidence that shows us that you and I had any decisions on the matter at all. As far as our physical frame is concerned, I can see a little bit of my father in me. I can see a little bit of my mother in me, and I can see a little bit of my grandparents in me. But I can see certain things in me that I cannot figure out that they come from anybody. I do not know where they came from. On the other hand, physically speaking I resemble my father a little bit. I did not ask to be born of my father. I did not ask to have this physical frame that I have now, or anything of that nature. As far as I know I had nothing to do with it whatsoever.
Another thing I have not decided to do, when I turned about 30 to 35 years of age I had become more or less a full grown man in all respects. But you know that you continue to develop up to 30, maybe 35. In some cases you might continue to develop up to age 40. I will soon be 47 years of age. I am not asking to be 47. I prefer to be 46 and maybe to be 45 and keep on going down until I am 35. That is a good age. And I want all of my so-called wisdom that I have now. I would like to have the wisdom of being a 70 or 80 or 90 year old, and be about 35 years old in frame. All I can say is that I am getting older every day and when I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, I admitted it to myself.
In another 10 years, if I live that long, I will get older and older and older. I tell you what will happen to Ernest Martin. It may not happen to any of you, but I am going to die one of these days, unless Jesus Christ comes in the meantime and rescues me. “It is appointed unto men once to die” (Hebrews 9:27). I have not asked anybody to get older. In fact, my whole idea is not to get old, not to get sick. I do not ask for much; I want to be happy, joyful, everything, but I keep getting older every day. I get more pains here, more pains there. I do not know why I do, but from my own point of view I can lie in bed, get on to my knees, walk around the countryside, and think all I want to be 35 years of age and I am not going to be so. I am getting older every day, and so are the rest of us, and one of these days (unless Christ comes first) we will all die.
None of us will last beyond 120 years of age, will we? Moses lasted to 120, but in this day and age, maybe 110. I know some who are so feisty that they are bound to live to 120. We do not have any assurance that we will last much longer than that, do we? So why all this arrogance? Here we come on the earth, we do not have any say about our being born, or in what circumstances. We do not have any way of stopping or reversing our aging process, and we have no means of keeping from dying. Temporarily perhaps, but we will die one of these days.
The Psalmist says our bodies are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:12–15). That is one section of Psalms that I have always liked very much. Here we are in our haughtiness. We have our bodies. We eat, we keep them furnished with food so that we can have a good existence. But I want to ask another question on all of our haughtiness: how many of you know about all the internal organs that you have in your body that keeps it functioning properly? How many of you could point out where your liver is? Some of you could. Maybe some of you are nurses or doctors. If you point it out, could you tell me what its function is? You may have studied some books but I asked the top doctors on earth today what the function of the liver is. They give some general answers but specifically explaining all its functions in every way, not one of them can do it. You have a liver, but do you know what it does? 8 How many know about the pancreas and where it is?
How many of you know where your gizzard is? I might just as well say gizzard because, though we do not have a gizzard, we could have one and most of you would not even know it, would you? 9 Most of us do not know why our body functions the way it does.
“As you know not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so you know not the works of God who makes all.”
Look at the heart, can you feel the heart? Mine is working, so is yours. It is going in and out, in and out. I cannot even control it. I do not know why it is happening that way, but it is happening. More important than anything else, I suppose, is what is going on up in the cranium, the brain, the physical part of the mind. I read a book the other day that told me that medical doctors, neurosurgeons, who work on the brain say they know about as much about the function of the brain as if it had been completely composed of cotton wool. In other words, they would know as much about what makes it really function as if it was cotton rather than organic brain matter.
What am I getting to with all this? It means that we have been wonderfully made, but by whom? Do we have any control over such things? Only superficially. To me our greatest arrogance comes not from the fact that we do not know much about our bodily processes, but what we think we can do of ourselves beyond the grave. We cannot do even small things in the physical world now, but we think we can gain salvation by our own actions? It is amazing. It is like lifting yourself by your own bootstraps. You simply cannot do it.
I must give you an illustration of the arrogance of the human race. One ancient Greek philosopher was amazed at the whole matter. He asked, why are humans so arrogant, so haughty? This is the illustration he used, I will not say it as he did, because he was rather crass, but it was an old Greek way of looking at things. I will put it in nice language. He said we come into the world naked, without a thing to cover us up, blood all over, in the most contortioned position you could possibly be in, crying our heads off. If we were put by the mother without her showing us where to get dinner we would die. Yet we begin to grow up and we get haughty. Then what happens? We get older and finally we die. Within hours the most awful stench you can ever think of comes from us. In the meantime, between our bloody birth and our stinking death, we are the haughtiest beings that ever came along. He said he could not understand it.
If that is the way it is physically (and it is), how is it that we get so haughty when it comes to spiritual things, which half the time we do not even understand? Our spiritual arrogance is really the worst thing.
Let me show you what a normal Protestant evangelism crusade is like. Such crusades are going on and the gentlemen in all good faith and honesty, using the Scriptures as best as he knows how, is telling the people that they ought to get right with God. Is there anything wrong with that? No. He tells them the biblical message about the repentance, and about faith, and about belief. Anything wrong with that? The answer is no. It is good. It is right.
He goes on to say that there is Jesus Christ who can rescue us from sin. Anything wrong with that? No again. It happens to be true. But now we come to the end of the sermon and here is what is going to be said: “All you have to do is to believe, to have faith, and to come up and confess (and by the way, that is biblical), and if you do these things, you shall be saved for all eternity in Christ.” Anything wrong with that? Yes, there is. There is something wrong when you look at it with close analysis. I will tell you what it is. It is not that the man who says it is doing wrong intentionally. That is not the point. Where the problem comes up is this, it is an extension of arrogance when you really think that you have a part in your salvation, when you think that you can someway or somehow gain eternal life by what you do.
I ask this question, how many of you came into this world in the first birth saying that you had something to do with it? None of you did. Do you think that you will have something to do with the second birth, which is a spiritual birth? Which is the most important, the physical or the spiritual? The physical lasts temporarily, only for a short lifetime. The spiritual can last for all eternity. We had nothing to do with our physical birth, why should we think that we have something to do with our spiritual birth that is far grander and lasts for all eternity?
In this illustration of the evangelical crusade, the man may say “come up, accept Christ and you can be born again.” He is saying that you have the capability of being born again. You have it. There is the fallacy. On many bumper stickers here in southern California we see “I found it!” They mean well in what they are saying. What they are intending to convey is that they have accepted Jesus Christ as personal savior. Is there anything wrong with that? Again I say no. That is wonderful.
Theologically that bumper sticker is completely unsound and incorrect. It is not important that you find God, but it is important that God finds you. You do not have the power to be born again, but God has the power to make you to be born again. In other words it is God who does these things, it is not you. It is God who brought you into this earth in the physical sense, and gave you the physical frame that you have. It is God who has you grow older every second of every day. It is God who allows you to die. That is true. That is our physical side. Do we think for a moment the spiritual side is not totally on God’s part, but now we will cooperate? Whoever heard of finite individuals such as we are, with such arrogance, cooperating with God in Him giving us eternal life?
The Bible says quite clearly that salvation, which we are all interested in, comes by one means and one means only, and there is one word that sums it up. The word is grace. Grace means something that is given freely without you having to lift a little finger. I have said time and time again, and the Bible supports it.
The Bible says clearly that works are essential to salvation, that is quite true, but they had to be done by someone who had the power to get those works in operation to carry out the salvation in a proper way. I will tell you who did it, it was Jesus Christ who performed the works to gain your salvation. The works that you think, or I think, or we think we need for salvation are worthless. It is “by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). All things are gifts of God: our physical existence here, the spiritual existence you all hope for, you pray for, and that you receive, according to the biblical revelations, are also going to be a gift from the eternal God by the grace of God which Christ worked out for us on the tree of crucifixion. That is a fact.
Look at John chapter 3 which begins with a discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus. Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee well trained in biblical matters:
“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that you do, except God be with him.’
Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
You and I are very familiar with these scriptures. I do not have to quote the rest of it. You know it. That verse 3 really tells us something very plainly if we are willing to look at it. If you have a King James Version, and it is an extended one with marginal notes in it, look at this verse because it tells us something that comes from the original Greek. It is something that Christ was telling Nicodemus. It is very important that we understand this principle. It is not well expressed in the King James Version, unfortunately, but there is a marginal reference to what Christ was saying. In reality the marginal really shows us what Christ was telling Nicodemus about being born again. Let us look at verse 3 once again:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
Look at that word “again.” It says in the marginal reference “from above.” Let us read it that way:
“Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you [Nicodemus], Except a man be born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’”
John 3:3, Greek
Not born here on earth. Nicodemus was already born here on earth. Someone has to be “born from above.” Now the man is on earth. Who is above? God is above. Do you want to have a spiritual life for all eternity? Do you want to have that destiny of everlasting life which we feel we all possess? Well, there is only one way you are going to get it. It is not something that you do here on this earth that will procure it; it has to come “from above.” You must be born again. It is possible to be born again in a spiritual sense even now.
That is not my subject for today but it is an absolute fact. When people say that you cannot be born again today in a spiritual sense, they do not know what they are talking about. From a biblical point of view it is possible. I know what Christ says later: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). I fully realize that. But it is possible in a spiritual sense for a person in human flesh to be born again. Now that I have said that, I have to prove it. There are several Scriptures that show this clearly. Go over to 1 Peter chapter 1:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever [for the age].”
1 Peter 1:23
This verse speaks about people “being born again.” Many of my friends, including myself for over 18 years, looked at that verse and said yes, in the King James Version it does say “born again” but the Greek can mean “begotten again.” We are only begotten in the womb and only to be born by a resurrection from the dead in the future. It makes sense on the surface. What we did was to change this word “born again” into “being begotten again” and we thought it made sense. It would mean we have the spirit within us, we are begotten, but there could be a miscarriage along the way before we are born. Do you see the point? That was what we had taught.
To understand any part of Scripture, we must pay attention to context. Peter did not write and organize these verses with chapter divisions. Those divisions were put in by men. If one continues reading what Peter wrote, he can rightly interpret what 1 Peter 1:23 means without resorting to the Greek at all, whether it be “begettal” or “born.” In actual fact it means “born.” 10 Let us read verse 23 again:
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which lives and abides for ever [for the age]. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away: But the word of the Lord endures for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you [ignoring the chapter division]. Wherefore [as a result of being born again] laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.”
1 Peter 1:23–2:2
Newborn babes desire the sincere milk of the word. Look at the whole illustration here, in verse 23, “being born again, not of corruptible seed.” After he mentions the word of God, he comes to verse 2 of chapter 2: “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” I ask anybody this from the illustration: If “born” back in 1:23 was to be translated “begotten” as in “being begotten again,” then the baby is still in the womb. It has not been born. In 2:2, in the same context, it says “as newborn babes” desiring what, “the sincere milk of the word.” No baby is going to take the milk from the mother’s breast until that baby is out of the womb. That is all there is to it. Clearly in 2:2 it says “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word.”
It is possible to be born again in a spiritual sense, granted, we have the earnest of the Spirit now. It will be at the resurrection when the whole complete fulfillment will take place, granted. But people have tried to make too much of a theological discussion on this whereas in actual fact, if a person would just look at the figures of speech used by the apostles, there would not be any difficulty on it at all. Going back to John 3:3, Christ is talking to Nicodemus about being born again, but this time from above, not from earth.
“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John [the Baptist]. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him [Christ] might believe. … That was the true Light, which lights every man that comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
John 1:6–7, 9–13
What about being born again? You have got to be born from above, born of God. We are all born of the flesh here, are we not? My mother and father by the will of the flesh wanted me. They even said they wanted me. They told me after I was born they wanted me, when I was able to know. That was very good. I appreciated it. They said it was not an accident. Fine. All three of my children were born because we wanted them. We missed the last one by one month, but we still wanted him by the will of the flesh.
The Gospel of John is telling us that we can “become the sons of God,” the children of God, but “which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” The subject of this lecture is the arrogance of man. We feel we can be “born” if we do certain things ourselves, if we will come up to the altar, shake the preacher’s hand, repent, have faith, and all these things. I know these things are mentioned in the Scripture, but by doing these things we ourselves can work up salvation and be born, not by God’s will, but by our own. That is what we believe when we think it through all the way. No we cannot.
God is the One who must start the salvation process. He is the One who sustains it and He is the One who completes it. It all begins with Him, goes through Him, and ends with Him:
“No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
“And he said, ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.’”
None of us have any power of ourselves to come to Christ unless God the Father ordains it from above. Not many are coming to Christ these days, it looks like, but there is such a thing as predestination. The predestination does not have to do with a person being predestinated to absolute salvation, although it does entail that. It means that God can at His own time periods and in the way that He sees fit give us or anybody a knowledge of the truth to lead them to Christ. Or, He can keep that knowledge from people if He wants to do so until later. He can give it or He can keep it. Ultimately He will give it to everyone.
Who is in charge regarding physical birth? God the Father and Christ. Who is in charge regarding spiritual birth, more especially spiritual birth I would say? I would say it is the same thing, God the Father and Christ. Yes, the second birth is the most glorious, and that is the one that all of us who are human beings think that we have a part. That is where the arrogance of man really comes along, and yet we do not have any part in it at all.
Are we not told in Romans 10:9–10 that we should do certain things? Yes, that is true. Paul says:
“That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
So it does seem like there is something to do. You have to repent, you have to confess, you have to believe, and you have to have faith. So when the evangelism crusades are going on in the Protestant world, people mean well, that is quite true, but then they give the altar call at the end. Now it is your time for you to do something to be saved — supposedly. You have to repent on your own — supposedly. You have to believe on your own — supposedly. And you have to have faith on your own — supposedly. If you do these things, God then will do His part and you — supposedly — will be born again.
In that scenario, who has a part in the salvation process? You do, if you look at it that way. The thing is, the Bible says that repentance itself is something granted to you by grace. That is what it says (Ephesians 2:8–9). It is not something that you work up, no matter how difficult this may seem. “When they heard these things,” about Cornelius and the Gentiles being converted, as Peter told the ekklesia in Jerusalem, “they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, ‘Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life’” (Acts 11:18). Who is it that grants repentance? Human beings or is it granted from above. It is given by God from above. Even that is a gift.
What about belief? Yes, you believe, but go to Philippians chapter 1 where Paul says: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). So the belief that you have is something that has been granted to you.
A corollary of belief is faith. Some may say, I must have faith in Christ. I have got to work up enough faith or I cannot be saved. Faith itself is given to you from above. Go back to Ephesians chapter 2. We know this very beautiful Scripture, it is a cardinal one.
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it [faith] is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Yes, even faith is a gift. Belief is a gift. Repentance is a gift. The new birth is a gift from above. Salvation is a gift. You have nothing to do with it.
Once you have these things, do you sit back and do nothing? No, you do something, but not in gaining salvation. The works that were necessary to gain salvation were accomplished by someone who had the power to do them and could do them efficaciously. That was Jesus Christ. All of these things have been given to you and you have salvation by grace. That is what Paul says.
I will close on this Scripture here: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace” (Romans 11:5). An election of grace, only a remnant. Why is it everybody is not coming to the truth now? It is because God has elected some to know now and He has elected all in the future. But there is a remnant at the present time. It is based upon election, and that election is an election of grace, which means a free gift.
“And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
Why are we so haughty when you get down to it? From a physical point of view we did not ask to come into this world. We do not even know how to sustain ourselves. We do not know how to keep ourselves from getting old, and we do not even know how to keep from dying. Yet when it comes to salvation we think we have our part to play. We think that if we do this, or if we do that, we can have eternal life. It is amazing if you think about it, because it is not according to the Holy Scriptures. Salvation comes from above. God is the one who gives it by grace, totally by Him, and we should not go around glorying in ourselves. We should be glorying in Him who gives us all things, both physical and spiritual. All things come from above.
Your assurance of salvation is not in yourself, it is in the assurance that comes from somebody who is powerful enough to give it to you. It comes from above.
Ernest L. Martin, 1979
Edited by David Sielaff, June 2009
I want to examine another aspect of the arrogance of man. Consider again this passage from Philippians chapter 1, reading it with perhaps greater understanding:
“For unto you it is given [literally, “it is graced”] in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict [struggle] which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”
The apostle Paul was saying that he was suffering at that moment on “behalf of Christ.” The members of the ekklesia at Philippi were also suffering persecution (“unto you it is given … also to suffer”). This is an amazing passage, is it not? How many Christians do you know who “suffer for His sake”? Such suffering for Christ’s sake is a gift from God.
I know many who have suffered for their own sins. Many have suffered evil from the world. Also, I have observed many who have suffered from their own foolishness. I have seen people suffer from their arrogance when their telling others about the truths of God. Such suffering was usually through their own doing, because they were dealing with people NOT done out of love, but out of arrogance. Frankly I am hard put to think of anyone in my lifetime or in society around me who has been made “to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29), specifically “on behalf of Christ.” I have no doubt it has happened, but I am not familiar with any such occurrence in my experience or hearing.
However, I can assure you that much suffering on behalf of Christ is occurring in the world. Christians are being persecuted today in Muslim countries, in Communist China (yes, China is still communist), in Africa, in South America (where a major orthodox Christian denomination is the dominant religion), and even in Europe where atheism has a strong hold on the population.
How can I be sure that such suffering actually occurs? I can be sure because God says that such suffering is a gift, just as grace is a gift of God (Romans 5:15; Ephesians 2:8). The apostle Paul wrote that the gifts of God are “without repentance” (Romans 11:29), which means simply that God has no regrets about giving them to His children. To suffer on behalf of Christ is “graced” by God to those who believe (Philippians 1:29–30, above).
The apostle Peter dwells at length on this subject in 1 Peter chapter 2. He begins by speaking generally on the topic:
“For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this [suffering] you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”
1 Peter 2:19–21 New King James Version
Christ suffered for us, and He suffered horribly. Peter is saying do not be surprised if God places you or any Christian in a situation to suffer for Christ. It is a glory for you for which we should be thankful. That is a hard saying to accept!
Such suffering will likely occur among ordinary people, perhaps even coming from your own friends and relatives, not in some grand arena or stage before national or international leaders for all the world to see. No, such things will likely happen in a dirty back alley somewhere. You may even be crippled or killed. Peter and Paul say we should not to be surprised or dismayed by such things. Perhaps we should even expect such things to happen. After all, they are gifts from God.
Later in his epistle the apostle Peter deals specifically with the subject of suffering on behalf of Christ again. In this instance Peter is writing specifically to Jewish believers about the gathering storm of unrest that soon devolved into the Jewish rebellion against Rome, ending with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, his words also have a general application for us today (mostly in non-western countries) and in the near future for all Christians. The persecutions that occurred then are a preview of those that will occur before the coming of God’s kingdom to this earth. The primary subject audience is that of Jewish believers in and around Jerusalem and Palestine. The best of God’s servants have suffered greatly. The suffering and trials will not come from God, but He will allow great evil to occur at that future time just as He allows general evil to occur today:
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings [you are participating in the sufferings of Christ]; that, when his glory shall be revealed, you may be glad also with exceeding joy.
If you be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are you; for the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you [citing Isaiah 11:2]: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.
For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it [that judgment] first begin at us, what shall the end [judgment] be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”
1 Peter 4:12–19
What does it mean the judgment that “must begin at the house of God”? This judgment is a testing, a refining of the strength of belief by those within the house of God (compare Malachi 3:1–5). A persecution against Jewish Christians implies a conversion of Jews to a biblical Christianity. This is exactly what Zechariah 12:10–13:6 predicts. 11 Again, Peter is writing to Jewish believers, most all of which are within the New Covenant, and not of the Mystery as most of us Gentile believers are.
Do not be foolish to seek persecution. Do not look around to see if you are being persecuted or think that every criticism comes to you because you believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected and that He is your Savior. Understand that not everyone who makes a comment against God or Christ or the Bible is your enemy or is persecuting you. You will know persecution when you see it.
David Sielaff, June 2009
1 Follow the story of the image of God in man physically and spiritually by reading the following verses in sequence: Genesis 1:26–27, 5:3, 9:6; Romans 1:23, 8:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7, 15:47–49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:15, 3:9. DWS
2 God created the eons, the ages, through His Son (Hebrews 1:2, Greek) and God has limited our knowledge and our understanding, as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3:11:
“He has made every thing beautiful in his time: also he has set the world [olam, an age, a time factor] in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end.” DWS
3 There is an old saying which is true for all people: “We’re born, we suffer, then we die.” Yes, this is a simplification from a secular, non-biblical understanding. And while our suffering is punctuated with times of beauty, love, ecstasy, and joy, on the whole this is the summation of life, this is the experience of most people throughout history. This view of life is extremely depressing unless there is a sequel to life as it is now. As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 3:22:
“Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?” DWS
4 Whether animals will do so or not, we wonder about. Some of us have had good pets. We want to take them into the Kingdom of God with us. I smile a little when I say that, but it is a very serious thing. Many people have great affection for particular animals, and they would like them to have some kind of a life with them in the future. When you get down to the lower animals like ants and gnats, I think we could do without them. But when it comes to the higher animals we say that maybe they can have an existence with us. ELM
5 While men frequently act like beasts (Ecclesiastes 3:18), animals have a different type of spirit than man. They certainly show love, loyalty, a sense of loss of a loved one (human or animal) and even a sense of humor, including joy. They become part of our families, yet their spirit is different from man’s spirit, according to Ecclesiastes 3:21: “Who knows the spirit of man [literally “the spirit of the son of man”] that goes upward, and the spirit of the beast that goes downward to the earth?” As the apostle Paul writes: “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:11). The spirit of animals allow them to live with their knowledge and understanding (if we can call it that), while the spirit of man allows man to have his knowledge and understanding and wisdom. God’s Spirit gives immortality and knowledge about “the things of God.” DWS
6 The idea that everyone will be saved is the doctrine called universalism. Universalism is not a biblical teaching unless you explain that salvation comes exclusively from God the Father through and by Christ’s actions and works in the past, present and future. Without Christ there is no salvation. He is the Savior of all men (1 Timothy 4:10). When you discuss with people the idea that all human beings will be saved, try not to use the term “universalism” or say you are a “universalist.” It is more correct to say that you believe in biblical “universal salvation” which can then lead to a discussion that the salvation the Bible talks about comes exclusively through Christ. The term “universal reconciliation” is even more specific and correct but few people understand what reconciliation means. It changes the discussion from Christ and diverts it to one of terms and definitions. Christ is the only person resurrected from the dead to spiritual life at present. He will remain the only person with immortality until His Second Coming. DWS
7 The spirit being, the cherub of Ezekiel 28:11–19 was prideful and arrogant (“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty,” Ezekiel 28:17), which result in his destruction for the age (verse 19). For a full discussion of this evil spirit being see Dr. Martin’s article “Discovering the Mark of the Beast” at http://www.askelm.com/prophecy/p900501.htm. DWS
8 “More than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver,” from “Liver Anatomy and Function” accessed May 21, 2009 at http://nyp.org/health/liver-anatomy-function.html, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University. DWS
9 The gizzard is a muscular pouch behind the stomach in birds. It contains grit which helps break down seeds before digestion. Some invertebrates such as the earthworms have a similar organ. DWS
10 See chapter 7 “Christ Was Punished for Us” at http://askelm.com/essentials/ess012.htm from Dr. Martin’s book Essentials of New Testament Doctrine (http://www.askelm.com/essentials/index.asp). DWS
11 The sequence of events in Zechariah is this: (1) First comes a crisis involving Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1–9), (2) then comes a conversion of Jews and others in Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:10–13:6) so that the Jews shall fulfill Christ’s commission to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom and repentance to the world. (3) Next, great persecution will occur (Zechariah 13:7–9) which Peter makes reference to. (4) The Day of the Lord will then come with Christ’s return to the Mount of Olives (Zechariah chapter 14). DWS
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