Hell is certainly an unpopular subject, these or any days. Now, people use the word all the time, most frequently as an expression of emphasis or what my grandmother Sparks called “cussin.” If you used that word or any of a number of others around her, you would soon wish you hadn’t. I know some grandmothers (and grandfathers) that are the same way today. But the world would be much better off if we had a more grandmothers like Granny Sparks.
There is an account in Matthew 21:17-22 of Jesus withering a fig tree that bore no fruit. The context indicates He did this as an example of His power as an encouragement to His disciples as they faced difficult days ahead. As to Mark’s account (Mark 11) and the matter of figs not being in season and thus Jesus withering an innocent tree (nonsense I know but in print somewhere) let us rely on the botanical knowledge of the Lord Who made all things.
Back in May Ginger and I took a little road trip. We went up to see son Tom and his wife Anne in Cleveland, Ohio and then down to Richmond, Virginia for my 50th high school reunion. As we all know it is always good to see your kids. I did notice that there were a lot of old people at that reunion! Ha!
Love is a multifaceted concept. In the English language we use adjectives to make clear what kind of love we are speaking of. The Greeks had four different words to accomplish this differentiation. For physical love they used “eros” which Plato said included the appreciation of beauty. For friendship they used “phileo” and we see that root word in “Philadelphia,” the city of brotherly love (see also Hebrews 13:1).
The old preachers would always remind us that Biblical hope is not just desire but desire plus expectation. The old song says “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Paul wrote of things that would last forever in 1 Corinthians 13:13: “And now abide faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Without doubt we know the greatness of love but none of us want to live without hope.
We believe that David wrote these words as he contemplated the challenges of his life: “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” Within the word translated “mercy” is the idea of God inclining His ear to David as the troubled king prayed. Also in the word is the concept of graciousness. David knew that God would not only hear him but be open to granting his request.
Paul said this: “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17 NKJV). To this add the second part of Romans 5:20: “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” There is a sense in which these two snippets of Scripture encapsulate the entire plan of salvation. Sin came in through the trespass of Adam and Eve. The Law of Moses made the definition of sin plain and clear.
As we conclude we must note that no one in the New Testament is ever saved by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Even in the case of the Apostle Paul, God used a preacher to teach Saul of Tarsus the gospel and then to baptize him into Christ (see Acts 9, 22, and 26). See also Romans 1:16. An additional important point of emphasis: The idea that the Holy Spirit lives in people today in some sort of supernatural fashion is false. It cannot be demonstrated as possible from Scripture nor can it be demonstrated empirically.
The Church and the Holy Spirit-2
The reason we are dealing with this subject: many people do not understand the Holy Spirit and His work and are therefore led to accept religious error, such as speaking in tongues, supernatural healing, miracles today and latter-day revelation. The solution to this and similar problems is to turn to the Word of God. When we allow the Bible to be the determining factor we can learn His identity, His work in the past and what the Bible teaches about His work today.
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